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111 907 






With Fnntupitce and 
Half-tone Plata 


All persons, of all races, tongues and 

creeds, who have honored 

me by listening to my voice and 

who, like me, regard music as the 

choicest of God's gifts 
to mankind I dedicate this book 














X'll. MY Bow TO LONDON 191 



STEIN 236 






INDEX 321 





DEBUT 164 








IT was at the conclusion of my recital in Leeds, 
England, that I first heard the solemn news* 
A young journalist, hatless and breathless, 
rushed excitedly into my dressing-room 1 exclaim- 

"Madame Tetrazzini, Patti is dead. What are 
your impressions on her death ?" 

All day I had been uneasy. While I was sing- 
ing to that crowded hall, and even as I responded 
to the generous applause of the audience, I was 
conscious of an insistent foreboding of an impend- 
ing loss. Mothers have spoken to me of similar 
presentiments experienced about the time that a 
tragedy has happened to a beloved son or daugh- 
ter ; wives have told me how, during the late war, 
they knew intuitively of the death of their hus- 
bands long before the news arrived from the De- 
partment of War. 

In times of crisis and death distance seems 
unable to separate great souls which have a strong 
bond of sympathy uniting them, and I sometimes 
wonder if the spirit of Patti, our Queen of Song, 


12 My Life of Song 

were actually in the hall on that memorable Sep- 
tember day of 1919 in Leeds. What else could 
have accounted for my strange uneasiness? 

My thoughts went swiftly back to the time of 
my London debut, when I first met the great 
Patti, and when she, noble soul, told me that I had 
won by merit the crown that she had laid aside. 

The plaudits of the audience still eehoing 
through the building as the journalist entered 
with his tragic newsthe journalist himself, my 
friends and the cold room, all vanished from my 
perception. All I remember is that I felt cold 
and unutterably sad, and that I was sobbing. For 
three days I spent most of my waking hours weep- 
ing over, the loss of the one who was the world's 
nightingale and my inspiration, and for weeks 
I still felt the strain of the shock of Patti f a 

Ate Garibaldi, Napoleon, Wellington, Nelson or 
Columbus appeal to ambitious young soldiers and 
sailors, so Patti has ever been to me my highest 
ideal. I used to think of her as a beggar-boy 
would think of an emperor a majestic being, 
more divine than human, so exalted that it was 
almost sacrilege to speak her name. Apart from 
the members of my own family, the first name 
that I heard to remember was the raagia name of 
Patti Shall I ever forget the first time I heard 
it or the strange thrill which ran through my 
young being as the full purport of it was made 
plain to my eager, childish mind! 

Patti's Death and My Birth 13 

It was at our house IB Florence. T!he family 
were all in the sitting-room. My mother, busy 
and gentle as always, was sitting on one side of 
the fire, sewing; opposite her was my father, 
comfortably reclining in his easy chair. Between 
them-, rolled into a fluffy ball on the rug, was our 
tortoise-shell cat, quietly purring. The piano, an 
instrument which through too frequent use was 
often getting out of tune but was nevertheless an 
excellent friend to us all, stood in the far corner. 
My sister Eva, nine years older than myself, was 
playing something from one of the operas. I, the 
baby and, I have been told, a general favorite, 
could not have been more than four or five years 
old at the time, but I remember toddling over to 
the piano and saying, "Let baby sing." 

"Yes," said my mother, looking up from her 
sewing, u play for baby." 

My sister played slowly, and I sang the notes. 
The words I did not know, nor do I recollect the 
air. The notes came to me very readily as we 
went through the piece. When the air was fin- 
ished, I asked my sister to play it over once more, 
and she did, I remember that my mother and my 
other sister, Elvera, four years older than I, ex- 
claimed, " Bravo, bravo!" as I finished singing. 
But my father! He called me over to him, took 
me on his knee, and lovingly caressed my plump 
young face. 

"Baby, I believe that you 11 be a Patti somie 
day," he said* 

14 My Life of Song 

"What's Patti?" I asked, looking mystified. 

Then he told me in baby language all about the 
great Patti. She was, lie said, a fine lady, whose 
name was known all over the earth as having the 
roost wonderful yoke, even as Christopher Col- 
umbus was known as a wonderful sailor who went 
out in a little ship and found a new world. He 
said there were many queens, one in every coun- 
try, but there was only one Queen of Song* 
Wherever the kings and queens went great crowds 
of people came from everywhere to see them, and 
wherever Patti went there were great crowds who 
used to stand all day, sometimes in the rain and 
snow, in the street outside the world's singing- 
houses, to hear her sing. She had lovely horses, 
lovely jewels, lovely palaces, and all the world 
loved and envied her. 

When she sang, he said, she made the people 
forget everything that was horrid and bad, and 
think only of the sweet and beautiful. Ho said 
that everyone who loved singing dreamed of being 
like Patti. To have a voice like Patti was to walk 
about with heaven inside. As he spoke my eyes 
must have opened very wide, as children's eyes do 
when they hear a wonderful story. 

"Den me try to be a Patti, daddy, 11 I ex- 
claimed, using a phrase similar to this if not ae* 
tually the words. My father hugged me dose to 
his broad chest and, still caressing my hair f again 
declared his firm belief that one day I should be 
as famous as his ideal. 

Patti's Death and My Birth 15 

During those early years I often had little day- 
dreams originated by this early scene, and the re- 
membrance of my father's stirring words was the 
starting-point. I built big air castles for myself. 
I pictured myself standing in the world's opera 
houses singing out my soul to vast crowds of happy 
people, and making them all feel that they were 
in heaven. And then I would come back to earth 
as my mother called me to wash the tea-things or 
to help her in preparing the beds for the family 
at night. 

Like so miany other Italian households, ours was 
a musical home in the fullest sense. My mother 
had a sweet voice which, whether she was speak- 
ing or singing, always delighted my extremely 
sensitive ear- But she had never sung in public 
nor undergone a training. She knew all the old 
Italian lullabies, and used to sing me to sleep with 
them when I was an infant. My father had a good 
ear, but no voice, 

Even my birth was heralded by music. My 
parents have often told me of the significant hap- 
pening a few moments after my advent. It was a 
festival day in Florence* Our apartment, which 
was on the ground and first floor of a big block of 
dwellings, overlooked the highway. My father 
had just been informed of my arrival when he 
heard the measured tramp of marching men com- 
ing from the street below. He ran to the open 
window and saw an Italian military band m gay 
tmiformf passing the house. The band had just 

16 My Life of Song 

finished playing a popular march. My father 
recognized in the commanding officer one of his 
many military friends, and excitedly shouted down 
the news that a little girl had just been born to 
the family of Tetrazzini. The officer waved his 
baton in congratulation. Then he halted his men, 
formed them in a circle below our dwelling, and 
ordered them to play an appropriate little ttme* 
If I could have ordered the arrangements for the 
beginning of my life, I could not have planned a 
scene quite so pleasing to myself or my parents 
as this little unrehearsed event* 

Thus my life, which has ever been a life of song, 
began. Some prime donne have first had aspira- 
tions for other of life's sweets than those which 
they subsequently gained in the realms of imisle. 
Some have pined to be great painters, some to be 
great writers, some to be ladies of rank, some to 
be renowned beauties, some to marry kings. It 
was not so with me. For me, to sing was to live; 
not to sing was to die* I used to sing as I awoke 
in my cot, as my mother dressed me with her 
patient hands, as I sat at meals, as I ran about 
our little apartment, as I scrubbed the floors wad 
cleaned the silver, as I walked the Old World 
streets of my native Florence or wandered down 
by the river banks and plucked the wild flowers 
growing there. If I could have done so, I should 
have written this life in the language of song, 

When at my kindergarten school I used to im- 
provise music to the words with which I answered 

Patti's Death and My Birth 17 

my teacher's questions sometimes to her great 
annoyance and my subsequent physical discom- 
fiture; many times have I had my knuckles rapped 
for singing when I should have been studying. 
I have sung my way all through life. When 
trouble and bereavement have clouded my day, I 
have stilled my aching heart with song. When 
I have been ill, I have sung on my sick-bed and 
partially allayed my physical pains thereby. 
Nothing but the loss of my voice will ever stop 
me from singing. I think I shall try to sing to my 
nurse on my dying bed. 

Once I was playing in the field with some of the 
boys and girls of the neighborhood, and was sing- 
ing to them as we played. One of the thoughtless 
lads, for a frolic, caught a grasshopper and put it 
down my sleeve. I was a temperamental little 
miss, much afraid of nasty insects, and this boy's 
sudden caprice gave my whole system a heavy 
shock. The physical disturbance it caused affected 
my eyes; a film) came over them, and for two 
months I had to be kept in a dark room. The doc- 
tor feared that I should lose my sight. Though I 
did not see the sun or any light for all this time, 
I sang my way through the long, weary hours of 
darkness. The neighbors could hear my voice, 
and used to speak of "the little blind nightingale." 
During those days my father, ever kindly and 
confident of my future, used to spend many hours 
with me and cheer me with Ms visions of the 
golden days that were in store for his little Patti- 

18 My Life of Song 

It is one of the greatest sorrows of my life that 
my father did not live to see his unshakable faith 
justified. Two years before my debut he passed 
away. I was then only fourteen years of age* 

There is one little feature of my childhood con- 
cerning which members of my family still speak 
when telling of my love for song, At one period 
of my life my mother always allotted to Hie the 
duty of sweeping and scrubbing all the stairs in 
our apartment. Sometimes I used to protest, as 
the task was not the pleasantest of all the house- 
hold duties. Many other protests of mine to my 
mother were favorably considered. Not so this 
one. One day my mother erpMned the reason 
why: it was because I had a habit of selecting an 
act from one of the great operas and singing it 
through during my work, I used to take the four 
parts and sing them all bass, tenor, contralto, and 
soprano. My mother declared that the time when 
I was cleaning the stairs was the happiest hour of 
her day. 

Sometimes when singing before very fashionable 
audiences at Covent Garden, London, or the Met- 
ropolitan Opera House, New York, those operas 
that I used to sing when cleaning the stairs of our 
Florence home, I feel amused at the contrast, and 
wonder what my auditors would say if they could 
have seen me in those happy early days. Some* 
times I forget my audiences and am back again in 
spirit in the old home, I can see my mother busy 
arranging the meals, the neighbors at their win* 

Patti's Death and My Birth 19 

dows, the postman coming down the street, and the 
purring cat on the rug at the bottom of the steps. It 
is not until the end of the aria or some movement 
by the audience recalls me to myself that I realize 
what is actually happening. 

Though I have no great desire to return to my 
childhood and go through my life again, I can 
say truthfully that my early days were very happy. 
I do not look back, as some international prime 
donne have done, to a home of poverty and early 
struggles to keep the hungry wolf from the door. 
My father used to supply to the Italian Govern- 
ment the uniforms for the army officers, and so 
earned a comfortable living for our family. Hav- 
ing a good head for figures, I used to help him 
with his books, for which he wx>uld allow me a 
tiny sum, about two cents daily, as pin-mtoney* I 
subsequently found that my love for and ability 
with figures was very useful in dealing with the 
business side of my profession. There are hard 
impresarios who are all too eager to dip deeply 
into the first scanty earnings of young singers. 
Others go farther and demand premiums from 
promising artists for giving them the opportunity 
of singing in public. In a later chapter I shall 
devote more space to impresarios and how I fought 

I am afraid that the assistance I gave my father 
was not always helpful to his business. The gay 
uxrifonws of the Italian officers made the same 
powerful appeal to my girlish love of color and 

20 My Life of Song 

smart appearance as they do to most maidens. 
Many a new uniform subsequently worn by a stem 
Italian general or smart young subaltern had its 
first airing around the figure of tomboy TetrazzinL 
The cock's plumes in the hats of the Bermglieri 
were great favorites of mine. In my spare mo- 
ments I would try on these hats, and oftentimes 
would be seen walking in the streets of Florence 
wearing the familiar headdress of this regiment 

I had a glorious afternoon during one of the 
carnivals. Attired in the gay uniform of the sharp- 
shootersas the Bersaglieri were familiarly 
termed with the shimmering dark-green cock's 
feathers circling down to below my shoulders, 1 
went out to join in the general gaiety of the town* 
My father, who was with me, far from discourag- 
ing me, joined heartily in my frolics. He walked 
behind while I, assuming the role of a young gal- 
lant, saluted some of the maidens of my acquain- 
tance withoxit revealing my identity. I had eon- 
cocted a little love speech for the benefit of each, 

"Oh, fair maiden, thou sweetest girl io Flor- 
ence, may I offer thee my hand and my heart! >f 
was my opening greeting. After a low bow I 
would ask the young damsel I was addressing to 
be allowed to walk with her to tell her more of 
the love which I had long felt toward her* Some 
of these girl chums would haughtily tote their 
heads and walk away. Others gave me a bettor 
reception. One of my dearest friends allowed me 
to walk by her side for a long distance wMe pomv 

Patti's Death and My Birth 21 

ing out my love-sick soul until she discovered 
that I was none other than her little friend, Luisa 
Tetrazzini. I suppose that she was justified in the 
outburst of indignation which followed her recog- 
nition of the imposture. Meanwhile my father, 
watching the proceedings from behind, was laugh- 
ing heartily at my spirited fun. On another fes- 
tival occasion I selected as a companion a very 
grubby street-boy who made a living by selling 
pumpkin seeds, and who seemed to be as over- 
whelmed at the interest that I displayed in him; 
as were some of my friends. 

One of the great days of the year in Florence 
was that of the masked ball of the carnival season. 
The first of these that I was allowed to attend saw 
also my first success in public, I donned the 
dress of Napoleon cut-away coat, tight nankeen 
breeches, light waistcoat, high black boots, and 
cocked hat. We had a picture of Napoleon at our 
house, and I stood before this picture to practice 
the characteristic Napoleonic pose before leaving 
for the ball Arrived at the ballroom, I strutted 
about, one hand thrust over my heart, the other 
in the classic position at my back; and, like Na- 
poleon on the Bellerophon, glowered on each and 
all. There was general merriment wherever I went 
and when the time came to announce the prize- 
winner I heard with a joyous leap of my heart 
that little Tetramni had been allotted the highest 
award. Our whole family mfede merry at my suc- 
cess* We danced OB and on until I felt weary. 

22 My Life of Song 

Then came the feast, with myself in the post of 
honor and my father sitting at my side to help 
me in the ceremony. It was then that my merri- 
ment received an unpleasant cheek. The cham- 
pagne was poured out into a large loving cup 
from which, according to custom, the prize-winner 
had the first long sip. As I was about to take the 
cup of champagne which was being handed to me, 
my father's strong hand fell on irane. 

"Oh dear, no, little Luisa," said he. "Dear, 
dear, no. You are much too young to be allowed 
to touch champagne. It will go to your head, and 
we shall have to carry our little Tetrasssmi home* 
When you grow up, yes, but not tonight >f 

I am afraid my eyes filled with tears as I watched 
my father take the flowing bowl and drink on my 
behalf, while all the other dancers laughed heartily 
at the plight of the little prize-winner, Despite 
this, I soon recovered my self-possession, and it 
was with my little nose tilted high that I left the 

This incident reminds me of my last tour of 
the United States in the winter of 1920*21. After 
I had acceded to a request of the American Gov- 
ernmient to sing into the wireless telephone so 
that the United States sailors could hear me eight 
hundred miles away, Mr* Daniels, Secretary of 
the Navy, complimenting me, asked me to name my 
favorite song. My answer astonished Mm! For I 
jocularly named the drunkard's ditty which had 
become widely popular over there since America 
went dry. It runs: 

Patti's Death and My Birth 23 

"How dry I am, 
Nobody knows, 

On that same tour I was the guest of honor at 
a public function in California. To please mfe the 
Governor of the State, who presided, announced 
that I could hold his office for five whole minutes, 
"All right, " I said, "here is something which will 
please everybody and make the Governor popular 
too. Everybody drink what he likes 1" 

At this there was a roar of laughter from the 
audience. The Governor, however, shook his head 
and said I had exceeded his powers. 

While playing on the cobbles with which the 
streets of Florence were paved, I often had an 
unfortunate tumble, though never a serious acci- 
dent. Sometimes I would go home to my mother 
crying over a bruised limb, or a cut knee, or a lost 
plaything which had been forcefully taken from 
me by an older and stronger child with whom I 
had unwisely played. 

One of my own very special games was to act 
as mother to a family of my playmates. My 
earliest memories of my own mother are that she 
believed with all her heart that cleanliness came 
exceeding close to godliness. My first act as 
mother to my pkymates, and some of them 1 were 
badly ia need of my particular brand of mother- 
ing, was to give each a good wash, I used to 
borrow a piece of soap from our family bathroom, 

24 My Life of Song 

and give the face of each a most sound and thor- 
ough scrubbing. Some of my playmates, it is true, 
did not enjoy me quite so much as their own less 
strict mothers, though generally speaking all took 
it as part of a good game. Some returned home 
to their parents with their faces so spotless that 
it must have caused surprise in certain homes leas 
Spartan than mine. In justice to myself I think 
I must say that when it came to another to take 
the turn of mother, I cheerfiilly submitted to the 
same rigors as I had myself exercised. 

The skipping rope, hoop, and many of the more 
sturdy, boys 7 games all had a great attraction for 
me as a child. I played a game similar to the 
English leap-frog, another resembling the Ameri- 
can game of baseball 

There is one amusing recollection of those jolly 
early days which always returns to me when I 
think of my birthplace. Our residence was right 
in the heart of the city. Immediately opposite to 
our sitting-room on the first floor was the studio 
of a young artist. This young painter should have 
devoted his talent to comic art, for he occasionally 
showed us some very clever and exceedingly funny 
lightning sketches which he made of Eva and my* 
self as he watched us from Ms vantage point across 
the narrow street while we played and sang. 

When we sang sad songs he would execute a 
rough though remarkably lifelike drawing of us f 
but would distort our features so as to indicate 
the mood of the music. The lower parts of our 

Patti's Death and My Birth 25 

faces would be drooping, our eyes would be shown 
rolling as if in utter dejection, and our heads and 
hands would conform to the tenor of the rest of 
the picture. This drawing wtould be swiftly ex- 
ecuted, and hanging out of the window for us to 
see before we could reach the end of the song we 
were singing. One of us immediately knew what 
was happening across the street when the other 
lost control of her voice and broke into laughter. 

"Ah, the student again," we would say, and we 
would lean out of the window the better to see the 
result of our artist's latest effort. As we laughed 
he would withdraw his picture, and return in a 
few seconds with a new drawing showing us in 
the very opposite mood: great openings reaching 
to our ears for our mouths, teeth showing, and 
cheeks a-wrinkle would denote that we were merry 
or perhaps that he wanted to hear some happier 
music. Although he must have made some hun- 
dreds of these lightning sketches, he was always 
careful to add some novelty to make each new cari- 
cature different from the others. 

One day the young painter called and prayed 
my mother to allow me to pose as a model for a 
picture of a child. I was standing by, and iml- 
mediately urged my mother to agree, which she did 
without much hesitation. He stated that he had 
noticed that my hands were very beautiful, and 
he wished to get them well in the forefront of the 
picture. So I decided to pose as a little Neapolitan 
child singing, and eating tm onion! I struck a 

26 My Life of Song 

pose which pleased the critical eye of the artist, 
and took a big bite of the onion. The picture was 
soon completed, but I do not think it reached a 
high standard of art or entered a gallery. The 
young painter, I believe, is dead, and the picture 
of little Tetrazzini with her onion is lost to me 
and to posterity. 



I HAVE frequently been made to suffer because 
of the envy and jealousy of my fellow-crea- 
tures, as have also to confess all who attain 
to any position of note. Great statesmen, great 
soldiers, great sailors, great singers, all must pay 
the price of eminence. Small faults are taken up 
by the sensational Press and magnified out of all 
proportion; weaknesses which may not exist are 
discovered and apostrophized; the finer qualities 
are forgotten or purposely obscured, 

Caruso, John McCormack, and many others 
whom I could name have all been wantonly and 
unjustifiably attacked by envious, jealous or mere- 
ly spiteful persons. It is too much to expect to 
go through life on the top of any profession with- 
out having to fight against malicious onslaughts. 
Even the great and good General Gordon, with 
Abraham Lincoln and Garibaldi, did not entirely 

Very early in my life I was made to suffer 
bitterly through the unprincipled act of another. 
Since then I have undergone other sufferings 
through the deliberate attacks of my fellow- 


28 My Life of Song 

At my first school there was a young girl who 
came of parents really too poor to adequately 
maintain her at this establishment. Though my 
family was not wealthy, I always had sufficient and 
to spare of the necessaries of life, Seeing that 
this poor girl was less fortunate, I used to help her 
as best I could. But this child had less gratitude 
than some grown-ups. She envied me for my com- 
parative good fortune. 

Toward the end of my first year the three lady 
principals began to miss various small articles 
from the school, and soon we all had the uncom- 
fortable feeling that there was a thief in our midst 
Little pieces of jewelry, food, handkerchiefs and 
ornaments disappeared. Our teachers #rew very 
annoyed, and threatened severe penalties to any- 
one who was caught stealing. One day I saw this 
girl hurriedly leaving the cloak-room with a ?ery 
guilty face, and I felt sure that she had been 
searching the pockets of the coats of some of the 
other girls. When I asked her what she was doing, 
she passed on without answering. The sequel 
cam$ the next day when the teacher found a num- 
ber of things whieli had recently disappeared 
in my desk. A great commotion followed. I was 
publicly accused of having stolen these wretehed 
little ornaments. How they got into my desk I 
did not know, although I strongly suspected the 
girl I had previously helped as being responsible. 
But I had no proof. It was not the annoyance 
caused by the discovery of these orn&roenta in my 

Joys and Sorrows of School 29 

desk which disturbed me the most. That was bad 
enough, but my own unfortunate temperament 
made it worse. 

I am of that nature, which I have since found 
to be not uncommon, which is only too ready to 
defend another in such an emergency but is help- 
less in the face of an unexpected charge against 
oneself. I stood before my principal too over- 
whelmed at the accusation to make any answer at 
all. I was literally speechless. Since that day 
I have stood and sung and spoken to crowds so 
vast that the very mjemory of them almost turns 
me disszy. I have sung in the open air to nearly 
250,000 without feeling at all nervous. Before a 
great crowd I have never been at a loss for a word; 
but confronted by a sudden false accusation, I was, 
and I think I still should be, helpless. 

When I, now greatly indignant, returned home 
to my family I told them what had happened, how* 
horrible they had all been to me at my first school, 
and asked not to be compelled to go back. My 
parents were very angry with the school authori- 
ties, and, the term being practically at an end, 
decided that I should not return. I w&s sent to 
another establishment, but it was a long time be- 
fore I felt at ease at school after my first unfortu- 
nate experience. 

Many years afterward, when I returned a very 
successful prixna donna from one of my American 
tours, I went back to this little school of my early 
childhood. Of my success in the realm of song all 

30 My Life of Song 

Florence was now aware, and the principals, when 
I called on them, were most eager to welcome me 
and were lavish in their congratulations. They 
were exceedingly pleased that I had remembered 
the old school and were so happy to recall that I 
was once a pupil there. 

Then I told them my main reason for calling. 
It was to tell them as an international prima donna 
what I had been unable to explain as a shy school- 
girl, that it was not little Tetrazzini who had stolen 
at the school. I told them of the other girl and 
the circumstances in which I had encountered her. 
They were then very profuse in their apologies 
for the incident, which they said they had for- 
gotten until I recalled it to them. "We thought 
you were a little thief then. Now you are a prima 
donna, and have told us you were wronged, of 
course we believe you," said they, rather naively 
I thought. As I left I found myself wondering 
what they would have said if I had not bees suc- 
cessful. My photograph now hangs in that school, 
and the young children are often reminded that 
the name of Tetrazzini, the prima donna, was 
once on the register. I do not think, however, that 
they are told the story of my unfortunate treat* 
ment and the reason why I early changed that 
school for another. 

I have no harrowing tale to tell of my rnrude 
studies, as have some of the great singers and 
players. There was never a time in my life when 
the work of preparation seemed so hard that I felt 

Joys and Sorrows of School 31 

like abandoning the effort. I did not spend long 
hours practicing scales and voice production. My 
maestri called me their easiest pupil. "You do 
not need a wutestro at all/' said one to me when 
I was at the Conservatoire of Music in my native 
Florence. "Your voice was born just right/' 

Certain it is that my actual training was prob- 
ably the shortest of any prima donna that the 
world has produced. My sister Eva had to go 
through four years 7 hard study and incessant prac- 
tice at the conservatoire before being appointed 
to the chief position in the Royal Opera House at 
Madrid. What it took my sister four laborious 
years to accomplish, I did in a year without effort. 
I do not write this in a spirit of boasting; on the 
contrary, to show that my success seemed to have 
been mapped out for me by nature. I took to 
music as a bird takes to air. It was my natural 

When I first aspired to a life of song my mother 
pointed to the trying experiences of my sister Eva 
before she became successful "The life of the 
songstress is a hard life," said my mother. "It 
means so much effort, so much self-sacrifice, so 
many disappointments, so many tears. Granted a 
good voice, the difficulty of obtaining a d6but, of 
convincing impresarios of your worth, and the 
moral temptations are almost insurmountable prior 
to * arrival.* When you become a good singer you 
are always living in fear of something affecting 

32 My Life of Song 

your voice. The rewards are not worth the toil 
and effort." 

If my mother could only then have looked into 
the future and seen the truth ! If she could have 
foreseen that in fewer than thirty years I 
should be able to earn with my voice no less than 
the stupendous sum! of five million dollars! But 
she did not. Neither did I* Yet it has so hap- 
pened. My voice to date has already earned for 
me well over that amount. 

"Stay and help your father in his business/' my 
mother counselled, "and become a merchant *s 

I often wonder what would have happened if 
I had done so, I suppose I should still be living 
in a little villa in Florence, and be spending my 
days singing to the birds and listening to the stories 
told by my successful sister of her visits to the 
other countries of the world* My eyes would 
sparkle as she spoke of London and its difficulties 
in regard to opera, of New York, all skyscrapers 
and hustle, and of dear old sleepy Madrid. 

When my sister practised at home under her 
maestro I would steal into the room and listen to 
the music* I still remember her trials with La 
Gioconda, and how I had learned it by heart with- 
out any special instruction by the time she was 
ready to sing it from the operatic stage, 

When the maestro took me to the conservatoire 
he introduced me as the new mtiaioal prodigy. 
New students were required to take some may Httle 

Joys and Sorrows of School 33 

piece of music and to sing it to the principal. If 
the singer gave any indication of promise, she was 
admitted ; if not, she was turned away. When my 
maestro took me first to the conservatoire he told 
me to bring the aria from the prison scene in 
Mefistofele, sung by Margherita. Tlie piece is very 
difficult, as everyone knows, and I was then only 
about ten years old. Students are not usually taken 
at this conservatoire until they are fifteen years 
of age; but my maestro thought, though I was so 
young, it was wise to introduce me to the musical 
atmosphere of the college as early as possible, and 
he asked for an exception to be made in my case. 

Compared with the other pupils, I was then a 
very small, slim figure* The principal looked from 
my maestro to myself in astonishment as I entered 
his room, 

"What have you here?" he queried 

"This is little Tetrazzini, my musical prodigy/ 5 

"But she is only an infant" 

"Her voice is grown-up, as you shall hear." 

"Then let me hear her sing*" 

I produced my excerpt from Mefistofele, and the 
principal raised his eyebrows. 

"But she is not going to sing this?" 

My maestro said, "Oh, yes, she is." 

"But no one sings pieces like this to get admis- 
sion. They do that when they go away. If she 
can do this, why does she come here at all is it to 
teach us?" 

I sang, and the principal turned to my maestro 

34 My Life of Song 

with a look of astonishment. "You are right," 
he said; "she is a musical prodigy. " 

Instead of taking me to the beginners' class, the 
principal introduced me to a class of girls who 
were second-year students, and in one month I had 
passed ahead of the whole class. 

When the time came for the examinations there 
promised to be some difficulty in obtaining permas- 
sion for me, through being so young and in my first 
year, to sit for a second year's examination. But 
the faculty rose to the occasion and granted me 
special permission to compete, with the result that 
I cante through an easy first and secured a tre- 
mendous advertisement for the institute. It is 
still truly said of me at the conservatoire that 
Tetrazzini was unable to pass the first year's ex- 
aminationfor I was never troubled to sit for it* 

It was about this time that the Verdi incident 

I feel that I must disclose this story to show how 
very human are all in the musical profession, from 
the lowest to the highest. 

In those days everyone was talking about a great 
new opera on which that musical genius, Verdi, 
was working. It was to be one of the most won- 
derful operas ever composed, so everyone was say- 
ing. We used to discuss it at my home ; our maedfri 
at the conservatoire spoke eagerly of the fora*- 
coming work ; indeed, the whole town generally was 
in a state of excitement over it* 

Otoe day the early post brought to my sister a 

Joys and Sorrows of School 35 

mysterious scroll which, when it was opened, I was 
not allowed to peruse. 

" It is a secret, " said my sister mysteriously, and 
went to her room to pore over its contents. Nat- 
urally, a secret of my sister 's set me a-tingling 
with eagerness to learn it. Later I heard her go 
to the piano and begin to sing. I entered the room 
unobserved, looked over her shoulder, and saw 
what everyone in the musical world was waiting 
and longing to see Verdi's new opera, Otello! 

It was a first copy of a work not yet published. 
A young man who was a near friend of Eva's was 
working with the great composer, and had secretly 
borrowed a copy of the new work to send it to my 
sister. Though his action was not. blameless, his 
motive, as far as my sister was concerned, was 
most kind and thoughtful. He argued that by 
practising on an advance copy of a new opera my 
sister would become so proficient that when, the 
secret was at last given to the world she would be 
the person mtost likely to be given the principal 
vocal part. 

^ : Ait first my sister had determined to send it back 
her thoughtful admirer, as she said it was not 

|ite playing the game either with Verdi or the 

ler opera singers; but the temptation to enjoy 
one glimpse of the first page of the score was 
too strong. The opening bars of the beautiful new 
work arrested her interest, and she quickly ran 
through the whole score. The,next step was to 
try a few bars on the piano. Soon she was singing 

36 My Life of Song 

so gaily the secret Otello that she did not notice 
that I too was listening. It was then too late to 
keep the secret. So I joined with her in the first 
rehearsal of the new opera. 

That was a great night. We went through the 
opera several My sister Blvera played, and 
Eva and I sang. It must have been grey morning 
before we were able to put the new work away 
and go to bed. Every member of the family was 
excited, and I, being the baby and the most tem- 
peramental, was more excited than all. They told 
me afterward that I sang Verdi *s new Otello in 
miy sleep during that short night. 

As the new opera was now a family secret, it 
was most necessary not to disclose its existence to 
anyone outside our home, As I was leaving 
for the conservatoire, however, I thought in my 
girlish mind how delightful it would be to let my 
maestro have just a peep at the work. I wrapped 
it up carefully, and, carrying it as though it were 
a piece of delicate china, took it with me to the 
academy. At the earliest opportunity I had a 
private word with my maestro. Peeling very im- 
portant and looking very mysterious, I said that I 
had some new treasure which would surprise him 

" And what is your surprise, my little prodigy f f * 
he asked encouragingly, 

"I have brought you Verdi's new opera." 

"What!" he exclaimed, and jrantped into the air 
in his excitement "Let me see it, quick, quick!" 

Joys and Sorrows of School 37 

I showed it to him;, and watched his eyes 

"Come in here," he said, and leaving the class 
to look after itself, he led the way to one of the 
rooms where there was a piano on which we could 
try it over without being disturbed. He sat at 
the instrument while I sang. At first he played 
softly and I sang quietly. Ais we proceeded we 
entered into the swing of the glorious work and be- 
came less cautious. He played the piano with 
reckless enjoyment, while I sang to the full volume 
of my voice. 

What was to be expected happened. Suddenly 
hearing the sound of a heavy man hurrying toward 
our door, we stopped in alarm. 

"Hide it, quick; there's someone coming, 7 ' 
ejaculated the maestro. 

I took the score and quickly thrust it under some 
cushions. Then we put an old score on the music 
rack. By this time someone was banging heavily 
on the class-room door. 

' * Open the door ! Open the door ! This minute ! 
I wish to enter/' 

We looked mutely at each other, for we knew 
the owner of that voice all too well. 

The maestro went to the door, unlocked it, and 
in walked the principal ! He was a man of medium 
height, his hair turning slightly grey. He looked 
at us both very curiously, and then stalked across 
to the piano and read the title of the score on the 
music rack. 

38 My Life of Song 

"Faust!" he exclaimed. "Faust! It was not 
Faust that you were playing. ' ' Then he turned to 
me and said, "Signorina, what were you singing 
just now?" 

My eyes fell. I did not know what to say* 

The maestro attempted to come to my rescue by 
saying that I was singing a few excerpts from the 
old operas. 

"Old operas! Old operas I Come, come, don't 
tell me that!' 7 he growled, "I know every old 
opera that is in existence. That glorious music 
has never been sung before to my knowledge. 
Those notes, that melody! Have you a new opera 

The principal looked from one to the other 
awaiting an answer. Both of us were fearing what 
would happen if we disclosed our secret, for the 
principal was a strict, upright man who, we knew, 
would countenance nothing that was not absolutely 
straightforward. Would he discharge the maestro 
and punish me for this escapade ? Would he write 
to Verdi and tell him that his opera had leaked 
out, and, if he did, what would that stern giant 
do with the young man who had sent the opera to 
my sister? Would my sister in some way be in- 
jured for her little parti Tlhese were some of 
the questions which I was asking myself during 
this curious scene in the conservatoire on that 
memorable morning. But there was not help for 
it. The secret had emerged from my home; it 
had to go farther now* 

Joys and Sorrows of School 39 

So I told the principal the whole story, expect- 
ing him to be righteously indignant I did not 
then know what a spell a new opera by a man like 
Verdi could cast over anyone in the profession. 

The expression on the maestro* 's face when I 
first showed him the new Otello was a sight of 
wonder, amazement and delight that was unforget- 
table. But the principal ! He was almost deliri- 
ous. Again was enacted the scene in which I had 
participated once before that morning and, pre- 
viously, at home. The principal took the new 
score, glanced through its magic pages, rushed to 
the door and locked it. Then the three of us went 
to the piano, and we sang the whole of the new 
opera through again, the principal loudly express- 
ing his delight at the work as we went along. 

"Yes, it's unquestionably Verdi, " said the 
principal, wihen we had come to the end* of the 
opera; and then he added a sentence which was 
shortly to be taken up by others and echoed 
throughout the realm of music. " Verdi, yes, but 
a new Verdi," he declared. "Our great composer 
has deserted the old Italian school and is becoming 
Wagnerian. But what a glorious work, neverthe- 
less. "Yfes, it's beautiful! Oh, it will be a huge 


It was long past lunch time before I returned 
to my home with the precious mtouscript, for 
which, by the way, my sister had been vainly 
searching during my absence. 

For this story to be complete I think I should 

40 My Life of Song 

have to say that later on, when I met the great 
Verdi, I told him of the incident and that he en- 
joyed it immensely; but there was no such desir- 
able sequel, although many years later I was in 
the presence of the great composer. It was on 
the shores of Maggiore where I came upon Verdi, 
with a famous maestro, taking the cure. He was 
then a frail old man. When I saw him I felt a 
great desire to speak to him and tell the story of 
'the Otello manuscript. At that moment the 
maestro saw me, and, excusing himself, fame to 
my side and asked me if I would care to meet the 
great Verdi. Again on an occasion of the highest 
importance my temperament prevented nie from 
doing the thing that I miost wished to do. I was 
so overwhelmed at the honor that I missed the 
opportunity. I sent the maestro away with an 
apology. Immediately he had gone I wanted to 
go after him and beg to be introduced. It was too 
late! Not long afterward I read with the deepest 
regret that our great Verdi was dead 



THOUGH I was only one year studying music 
in the conservatoire, it should be understood 
that most of my life from the time I was able 
to toddle until my public debut as a prima donna, 
was spent in studying and practicing singing. Even 
at my first school, where I had the unpleasant ex- 
perience which I have already described, some of 
the hours of study were devoted to music. The 
three old maids they were sisters who ran the 
school had different duties* One acted as man- 
ageress, one as professor of literature, and the 
third as instructress in gymnastics. Though they 
were sisters, they were not a happy trio. The 
eldest, who was, of course, the manageress, was 
greatly disliked by the other two, who sometimes 
conspired together against her rule. When there 
was friction among these " goddesses, " as might 
be supposed, the life of the pupils was not so 
enjoyable as it should have been. Our punish- 
ments for real or imaginary offences were more 
frequent and more severe at these times of dis- 
imioiL. My frequent outbursts of song at irregular 
moments were never overlooked during these days 
of tension. I have no children of rdy own. If I 


42 My Life of Song 

had I think I should require from the school- 
master or schoolmistress under whose care I 
placed them a guarantee that, should they occa- 
sionally testify to their joy in life by an outburst 
of song, they should not be too hastily or too 
severely checked. 

I do not wish it to be understood that my teach- 
ers were always harsh and unkind* On the con- 
trary, some were very considerate, appreciative 
and even indulgent. I have most happy memories 
of one maestro who, after I had finished singing, 
would nod his head in a grave, wise sort of fashion 
and say, " Ah, little Tetrassssini, you have something 
very wonderful in your throat. " 

"Have I, maestro?" I replied on one occasion, 
"Please tell me what it is that's there*** 

Then he painted a picture very similar to that 
which my father had once drawn when speaking 
of Patti. "You have palaces and castles, horses 
and coaches, beautiful lands and lovely jewels, a 
great name and thousands of admirers; you have 
all tiiere is in the world in that little white throat 
of yours. " 

He must have been very hurt with my irreverent 

"If I have horses down my throat, moGtfro," I 
answered, "suppose you take out two of them and 
let's go for a glorious gallop across the hills, in- 
stead of staying here in this stuffy old school** 
A!s I spoke I cheekily opened my mouth. 

"Ah, you are very fumay, Mttle TetrasBinV' he 

Preparing for My Debut 43 

ireplied, "but one day you will know that I speak 
not in fun but in all seriousness. Then you will 
remember my words and think kindly of the old 
maestro who will probably be dead and forgotten. " 

When vast audiences in world-capitals have risen 
in their seats, waved their hands, and cheered and 
cheered my singing until I have been almost over- 
whelmed by the joyous tumult, I have thought of 
my old maestro and his words. "Would that he 
were here tonight to share with me the success of 
Ms old pupil, " is the phrase that has often been 
in my mind and on my lips since those days of my 

Whatever may be said of me when I am dead, I 
hope it will never be said that Tetrazzini, when 
successful, ever displayed a lack of sympathy for 
those others in her glorious profession to whom 
the fates have dealt less kindly. I have always 
realized that I did not make my voice ; it was there. 
And when sometimes my maestri used to select me 
to be an example to those whom they described 
as their dull pupils, I have invariably felt more 
sorry for their failures than exultant over my own 
triumphs. I remember one girl who had been in the 
institute for six years, whose gifts did not lie in 
the direction of operatic singing, often causing my 
^maestro much annoyance through her inability to 
produce the notes for which he was asking. After 
numerous attempts, he turned to me and said, 
"Tetrazzini, come and show this dull girl how to 
sing," Feeling very sorry for the dull one, I pur- 

44 My Life of Song 

posely made one or two mistakes at the start. 
When I tried again, however, I sang the piece as 
my maestro wished. As a reward my maestro gave 
me one penny ? and the dull girl favored me with 
a scowl which, had she known the truth, she might 
have reserved for somfeone else. Such scowls from 
envious members of the profession, particularly 
from those of my own sex, have often been directed 
at me since those early days in Florence. 

The hours I spent in the conservatoire were very 
short. I would rise in the morning at 7*30, and 
help my mother to cook and prepare the breakfast 
and to clean the house until eleven o'clock. House- 
work always fascinated me, and still does* Though 
I own a palace and a mansion, and when travelling 
stay in the most luxurious hotels, I often lend a 
hand to the servants who are scrubbing the floors, 
sweeping the carpets, and cleaning and tidying 
generally* I used to climb trees, and loved it. I 
still climb the trees in my own orchard at Lugano 
and help to pluck the season *s fruit. 

At eleven o'clock I used to be at the conserva- 
toire, and would stay and sing there under my 
maestro until about 12,30. Then home to Iwndbu 
The afternoon was usually spent with my father, 
who, besides giving me Ms books to keep straight, 
would ask me to do some ol the gold embroidery- 
work for the collars of the generals and other great 
men of the army* From four to five o'clock I 
would run through the lessons of the morning at 
home, for there wag nothing to do at the eonserva- 

Preparing for My Debut 45 

toire in the afternoon. Every night after supper 
we had a musical evening* Oh, those jolly musical 
evenings ! Only when the family went out to pay 
a visit was there no musical evening at our home. 
Even then we would all take our music to our 
friends and pass most of the hours singing, dancing 
and playing. 

One of our favorites was Meyerbeer's L'Afri- 
cana. I used to sing both soprano parts, that of 
Selika, the slave and formerly an African queen, 
and that of Inez, the daughter of Don Diego. I 
loved both the music and the character of the slave 
queen, the woman of the big, generous heart, who, 
giving up her loved one to Inez, destroys herself 
by eating of the poisonous tree of beautiful growth. 
It was in this opera that I made by debut, taking 
the part of Inez, the betrothed of the great Portu- 
guese explorer, Vasco de Gama, the discoverer of 
Natal, At those merry musical evenings La Qio- 
conda was also an opera often sung, while another 
of our greatest favorites was The Daughter of the 
Regiment. This brilliant little opera is the fifty- 
fourth work produced by the prolific Donizetti. 
My father used to tell me that it was at one time 
very popular in London, when Jenny Lind, then 
the singing star of the world, played the vivacious 
vwandtere. Marie, the soprano, the life of the 
"21st" of the line, the daughter of a marchioness, 
was lost in childhood, and found by the "2ist" 
as they miarched to war. An old corporal (the 
bass) takes the infant under his special care, and 

46 My Life of Song 

she becomes the daughter of the regiment. Tonio, 
the tenor peasant, falls in love with her, and to be 
near her j oins the " 21st. ' ' The young couple wish 
to marry, but complications arise owing to Marie's 
relatives. But true love wins, for Tonio, as a 
soldier of Napoleon, has a baton in his modest 
knapsack. I have sung this merry opera many, 
many times. I have played it all over Italy, Eng- 
land, Russia, Germany, Austria, North and South 
America. My way of makijng a; smart little salute, 
on which the newspapers of all countries have so 
often commented and at which so many hundreds 
of thousands of people have laughed, I practised 
at those musical evenings in my home in Florence. 
In those days my father used to roll with laughter 
as he watched me. Once when I was singing at 
Washington, President Taft whom I knew well-- 
was in the principal box. When I came on the 
stage I noticed him immediately. His magnificent, 
kindly face was beaming a welcome, and so I re- 
sponded by marching right across the stage until 
I could almost step into his box. Then I gave him 
my cheeky little salute. The President broke into 
a roar of infectious laughter, and all the crowded 
house joined with him. The incident, small though 
it may seem when set down in frigid proee, BO 
tickled the imagination of the great assembly that 
it seemed as though we should not be able to carry 
on with the opera. The President shook with 
laughter for some minutes; the people in the other 
boxes did the same; those in the orchestra roared 

Preparing for My Debut 

and rolled in their seats, while those in the upper 
parts of the house shouted, "Encore! Encore! 
Another salute !" It was full fifteen minutes be- 
fore we were able to proceed with The Daughter 
of the Regiment. 

Otello, from the time the unpublished manu- 
script was brought to the house until I left home, 
was always popular. 

It was during my girlhood that Lakme, an opera 
in three acts by Delibes, was published. Its first 
production was in Paris in 1883, and it appeared 
in London two years afterward. I regard this 
work as Delibes' best. It has the light touch of 
the modern French school of opera. It tells of a 
young British officer who, when in India, enters 
the sacred grounds of a Brahmin temple, and 
thereby incurs the death penalty. Meeting Lakme, 
the daughter of the high priest, he takes her aw&y 
to a jungle retreat. While there he hears from 
afar the trumpet call to return to duty. As he 
departs Lakme gathers the flowers of the deadly 
stramonium tree, kisses her lover, bids him good- 
bye, and presses the fatal flower to her lips. 
Lakme 's prayer to Dutga and the other Brahmin 
gods for protection for her English lover, and the 
famous bell song, were heard almost nightly in 
our home, and I am still singing arias from his 
great and ever-popular opera today. It was 
Lakm$ that I sang in the Royal Albert Hall, Lon- 
don, on October 10, 1920, at a special concert which, 
it was necessary to give to demonstrate to the 

48 My Life of Song 

British public that some reports which had been 
circulated as to my voice were entirely false. The 
London public, though they had heard me sing 
Lakme, I thought, until they were weary, gave me 
their accustomed ecstatic welcome. The hall was 
packed with nearly 13,000 people. All the boxes 
save one were filled. The next day the newspapers 
criticized the owner of this box for not lending it 
to someone in the large crowds who had been turned 
away. When we left the hall our car was mobbed 
by enthusiasts who were shouting to me to return 
soon and sing them Laltme once again* 

I learned how to be a prima donna in the best 
of all possible schools the opera house. The 
family Tetrazzini were typical of the Italians, in- 
asmuch as every member of it, every relative near 
and distant, was an insatiable lover of opera, My 
father and brother were great friends of the man- 
ager and the conductor at otir opera house in 
Florence, so when the opera season was in fuU 
swing the family Tetrasssini would be specially in* 
vited, and would go in force, to almost every per- 
formance. When I was an infant in arras my par- 
ents used to take me with thembut I have no 
story to tell of having to be suddenly removed 
from the house because I disturbed the perform- 
ance. I would lie asleep in my mother's arms, and, 
to use her own word&, " would be as happy as an 
angel" through the whole performance. If I ut- 
tered a sound, as I did later on, it was only to 
mimic in my baby way a startling note that mm 


Preparing for My Debut 49 

being sung from the stage, a note wMcli probably 
first aroused the mtosical chords in my being. Later 
on I used to keep awake as the opera- proceeded, 
and I would crow quietly to myself as I sat on my 
mother's knee, most of the time keeping in perfect 
harmony with the music. 

My maestro used to say that I was born in the 
opera house, which was not strictly correct. It 
was true, however, that I spent more time in the 
opera house when I was a child than most singers 
lhave done. I have always stated that it was in 
the opera house that I made my debut as a public 
singer, but when I was in London in October, 1920, 
an Italian baritone called at my hotel and stated 
that it was not so, for previous to my debut at the 
Florence Opera House I had sung with him in a 
tiny hall at a concert held in a village near to my 
town. He probably is right, but I have now no 
recollection of the incident. Since then I have 
sung in villages, but usually in the open air, be- 
cause of the difficulty of obtaining a public haH 
of any size. 

In the early days of my 'teens I thought I should 
be a contralto. My voice grew to be very much 
like that of Madame Clara Butt today, but this 
phase did not last long, and I found that I was 
soprano again with a very high register. Since 
those days I have met many a soprano whose voice 
first gave promise of being contralto, and tenors 
who for a little while were baritones. 

I did not debut in a chorus, as most operatic 

50 My Life of Song 

singers have done. My first public appearance, 
save for the' forgotten village incident which I 
have mentioned, was as a prima donna in my own 
critical, music-loving Florence. The opportunity 
was both spectacular and unexpected. It was one 
Sunday evening. Previously the impresario had 
met my brother in the town and said, " You must 
come to L'Africana tonight The house will be 
packed. It will be a record night We have a 
great prima donna who has incessantly practised 
the part of Inez for weeks past. She is now as 
near to perfection as any soprano you will ever- 
hear." My brother canve home very excited, 
bringing with him tickets for the stalls, one for 
each member of our family, 

" These are the last obtainable/* he exclaimed. 
" There are crowds being sent away from the box- 

All Sunday we were talking of the coming per- 
formance of L'Afrieana. As ever, I was the most 
interested and excited one of the family. All day 
I was dreaming of the prima donna whose per- 
formance that evening would make her the talk 
of Florence for weeks to come. How I envied her! 
I thought of what my brother had said as to her 
weeks of special preparation for the part. Know- 
ing that I had been singing tMs opera almost daily 
ever since I could toddle, I ny be excused for 
feeling that, however much at home this great 
prima donna would be as Inez, she could not fed 
and know the part better than I. But she was a 

Preparing for My Debut 51 

grown-up woman. I was then only a girl with my 
hair still falling over my shoulders/ I was barely 
sixteen years of age, and, as I have since been 
told, looked much younger. During the day I ex- 
pressed to my mother the thoughts and longings 
which crowded my mind and filled my heart. 

"Have patience, child; have patience, little 
Luisa," said my mother. "Tour turn must come 
soon. Do not be too ambitious. Eemember you 
are but a child. " 

"Yes, mother, but I can sing, and sing well, so 
the maestro and everybody tell me. If what they 
say is true, why should I not become a prima donna 
at once and sing from the operatic stage to our 
people in Florence ?" 

"So you shall, Luisa," retorted my mother. 
"But it is much too early for you to expect to take 
a star part in grand opera. The day will come, 
never fear, sooner perhaps than you now think." 

There was a tinge of prophecy in those encourag- 
ing words of my mother. I did not know it, nor 
did any other member of ray f am&ly. Tet that day 
I was on the verge of my sensational debut. Those 
seemingly long days of waiting and visioning of 
my youth were at an end. When I recall them I 
cannot help smiling at my impatience and at the 
same time marvelling at the rare stroke of good 
fortune which came to me on that memorable Sim- 
day, when I had scarce seen sixteen sunraers 
through. There are today some fairly well-known 
prime donne who accidentally discovered that they 

52 My Life of Song 

had the gift of song only when they were Hearing 
thirty years of age. Yet here was I in my sixteenth 
year'straining at the leash, longing to break away 
and bound to the forefront of the most difficult 
stage of the world of art. I am sometimes asked 
if I do not now think I made my debut too soon, 
My invariable reply is in the negative. I have 
never had cause to regret taking to the stage so 
early, for from this time onward my life of song 
has been my training school The earlier one 
starts the better, because one is more impression- 
able in youth, and the practical experience brings 
the singer more quickly to maturity. The zenith 
of her career finds her still fresh, young and ma- 
ture in art and voice. How often when we hear 
a great artist have we to deplore that the voice has 
become old and worn, for the reason that she began 
too late in life, when the bloom of youth had van- 
ished. I went to the opera house that Sunday night 
with a muffled sense of being somehow out in the 
cold. I left the house later on in a state of almost 
delirious joy. As I entered with my mother, my 
brother and my sisters, I saw the crowds who were 
being turned away disappointed from the box-office 
but I did not feel, as some do in such eireunmtanees 
and as I may have done on other occasions, a kind 
of pharisaic satisfaction that my lot was different 
from that of those others leas fortunately placed. 
I was then only thinking of the prima donna. 

I saw those others still less fortunate, ^ko* 
standing on the opposite pavement, enviously 

Preparing for My Debut 53 

watched the glittering lights of the Pagliani The- 
atre and the well-dressed throng pouring inside, 
and who knew that their pockets were too shallow 
to permit of their obtaining seats even if there 
were any on sale. That night, I am afraid, I was 
also too full of my own aspirations to give them 
more than a passing thought of pity. Since then 
I record it with modesty, for I have always re- 
garded it as a duty I have as often as possible 
acted differently when seeing similar sights outside 
the opera theatres where I have been singing. 
"You have a good heart, Tetrazzini," is a sentence 
which, occasionally used by some of my acquain- 
tances, has caused me as much secret pleasure as 
some of the extravagant outbursts $f the audiences 
whom I have pleased with my songs. It has often 
happened that when I have arrived at the opera 
in one of the big world-cities and seen crowds of 
people in evening dress going away because of the 
"House Full" sign, I have sent round to the tail 
of the gallery queue and asked half a dozen of the 
music lovers among those less fortunately placed, 
who it was evident stood a poor chance of obtain- 
ing admission, if they would honor Tetrazzini by 
occupying her own private box for the evening's 
performance. I have watched with quiet enjoy- 
ment the curious glances directed toward the occu- 
pants of my box by some of the bejeweled ladies 
in the other boxes and stalls. The rough clothes 
worn by my selected half-dozen, it is true, are 
usually out of keeping with the elegant side of 

54 My Life of Song 

the house, yet to me it is the one touch of human 
nature which makes the world kin. And these 
always eager though shabby members of the human 
race are generally the best listeners and the most 
ready to appreciate the highest music. On such 
occasions I feel that I am able to sing better and 
to be more in sympathy with some of the grand 
parts which are so plentif \\\ in all the great operas. 
Inside the opera house at Florence that night 
were all who mattered in my home town. All 
authority, all the maestri and Florence was full 
of music professors all the relatives of the artists, 
impresarios from other towns searching for new 
talent, the professional men and the business men, 
the Press and the first-nighters, were there. It 
was an assembly such as makes a theatre manager 
feel unusually stern and important. Then it hap- 
pened! The orchestra had just finished their 
scraping and tuning-up preliminaries, obviously 
conscious that they were very important units in 
the great opening performance, nnd were all ready- 
to strike forth the opening bars, when a message 
was whispered into the car of the conductor. Sit- 
ting there in my stall beside my mother, my keen 
young ears heard something that made my heart 
leap and then stop. It was to the effect that the 
prima donna had not arrived. In a flash I was all 
alert and trembling with excitement I forgot my 
youth, my inexperience, my girlish dress, my gen- 
eral unpreparedness. All I could think in that 
mad rush of eager emotion was, "My chance has 

Preparing for My Debut 55 

coirte. There is no one here who can take this part 
except little Tetrazzini. ' ' The conductor was mov- 
ing about in uncontrollable agitation. He clasped 
and unclasped his hands despairingly, tore his hair, 
looked apprehensively from the waiting orchestra 
to the glittering, expectant house. The manager 
hurried to him with a note which had just been 
brought by an express messenger. Eagerly I 
watched the conductor tear the little envelope, 
snatch out the enclosure, and read its contents. 
Then his features assumed an expression of tragic 
despair. He turned to the house and announced 
with deepest regret that L'Africana could not be 
given that night. He had just received wtord from 
the great prima donna who was to have played the 
part of Inez that she had suddenly fallen ill and 
could not leave her house. A murmur of disap- 
pointment ran through the theatre. Then I did 
something the audacity of which causes mie to 
marvel even to this day. The excitement of the 
moment was so great that I can scarcely remember 
with accuracy the details of what happened. I 
have a dim remembrance that my people tried to 
check my impetuosity and that I refused to be 
checked. I remember that I jumped to my feet, 
and then, fearing that I should miss the conduc- 
tor's eye, leapt on my seat. Standing there, a girlish 
figure, the cynosure of every eye in that crowded 
theatre, I addressed the conductor thus: "Don't 
worry, maestro. I know the part thoroughly well. 
Let mie oointe to the stage* I will sing it" I must 

56 My Life of Song 

have spoken very loudly, for even in the gallery 
my words were plainly heard. Immediately I had 
spoken the house began to buzz with conversation. 
"Who is she?" asked some. "It's Tetrazzini," 
exclaimed others. "Yes, let her try," cried still 
others. And I, quivering with excitement, stood 
on the cushioned stall unheeding all save the con- 
ductor, whose "Yes" or "No" meant everything 
or nothing, sunshine or storm, joy or sorrow, life 
or death, tome! 



''TTTHAT arc 
\\ must be i 

are you saying Tetrazzinif You 

mad! 77 
Tlie conductor had answered me ! 

It was the only answer I could have expected. 
Perhaps in later years I should have accepted such 
a rebuff as final and have resumed my seat, feeling 
greatly abashed. Not so on this occasion, for I 
had not the slightest feeling of that kind at the 
nxoment. I only realized that a magnificent oppor- 
tunity, the chance of a lifetime, was slipping away 
from me. If I allowed this chance to go by with- 
out making a supreme effort to seize it, years 
might pass before another such opportunity pre- 
sented itself. 

Though my temperament has sometimes failed 
me in certain critical situations it has never caused 
me to miss a professional opportunity. There are 
some prime donne who consider it undignified to 
write an article for the Press or to give an inter- 
view to a journalist, but I have always regarded 
it as a, privilege to use the newspapers as a means 
of speaking to a far bigger audience than can be 
collected into a public hall. When the opportunity 
conaes to tell of some of the joys and sorrows of 


58 My Life of Song 

my profession, or to write on a matter of great 
public interest, I take it, whenever possible. I 
soon realized how great a power is the Press in 
making more remunerative the business side of a 
prima donna's work. To convince an impresario 
of her ability to sing well is only part of the battle 
of a prima donna; the general public must know it 
too. I help the Press whenever I can because 
almost invariably the Press helps me. Yet though 
I have allowed few professional opportunities to 
pass, I have tried to avoid purely selfish actions. 
All of us are selfish in a greater or lesser degree. 
I should be much wealthier today if I had lived 
a life in which my own self-interest was the ruling 
passion. It often happens that when the opera 
to be given at any of the opera houses is under 
discussion some of the artists urge the management 
to put on productions which give them the best 
opportunity of distinguishing themselves, and 
therefore give others less scope to shine. Before 
I left home my parents urged me on such occasions 
always to act in the interest of the whole company 
rather than for the benefit and glorification of 
myself. I have always remembered their counsel 
and honestly tried to abide by it when the operas 
for the season have been under diseusdon, But 
when other opportunities for wMch aE who sing 
are always waiting present themselves, I have 
never been backward in accepting what the gods 
have proffered. 
"I am not mad,' 1 1 hurled back to the 

Prima Donna at Sixteen 59 

in the Florence Opera House that night. "I know 
perfectly well that the part of Inez is very difficult. 
I also know that I can do it. Do not send all 
these people away without giving me a chance to 
show them that what I am telling you is true. " 

The conductor hesitated. He looked at my smalL 
slim figure half doubtfully, while some of my 
friends in the audience voiced their own arguments 
on my behalf. 

"The girl is right, " shouted one who had heard 
me sing at the conservatoire. "She has a voice 
like liquid gold; and she is an actress as well." 
Some of the others in the balcony added their quota. 
"Everybody knows Tetrazzini can sing anything. 
She's the nightingale of Florence, " said one. His 
remark was generally applauded. I think it must 
have been the inspiration of the audience that 
finally decided the conductor to take a step which, 
though it was not quite so far as I had asked him 
to go, meant everything to me. 

"Very well, little Luisa," he said. "You shall 
have the part," The audience interrupted with 
a roar of pleasure* I was all for rushing from 
my seat to the stage when the maestro stopped me. 
"But not tonight," he said. "I cannot take the 
responsibility of putting anyone on at this house 
without a rehearsal. No performance is better 
than a first-night * failure.' We will postpone the 
opening of L'Africma for a few days, and you 
shall come tomorrow to the rehearsals." 

Later my relatives and friends crowded round 

60 My Life of Song 

me to praise my daring and to congratulate me on 
securing an engagement in so imusual a way. All 
the members of our family hurried home, I singing 
snatches from L'Africana all the way. My heart 
was bounding with delight. Those rough old 
cobblestones of Florence, I remember, seemed 
soft as rose leaves as I danced across them into 
our cab. I remember how my maestro came to the 
house that night to give me scnmcl advice for the 
morrow. I remember how that night in my home 
we played and sang the whole opera through, I, 
now a real prima donna, singing with intense 
earnestness every line of my part instead, as for- 
merly, of improvising words to suit my lively 

Eehearsal morning came, and I was up with the 
lark, singing as blithe as he. We went through 
the first rehearsal without a hitch. At the end the 
impresario came up to me and said : " Luisa, there 
was no need for this wait I should have asked 
you on to the stage on Sunday night when you 
offered to oblige me. ' ' I felt greatly complimented 
over this* We spent but one more day rehearsing, 
and then came the night of my d$but How excited 
I was all through the day* The hours dragged 
along. Never was there such a lengthy day in my 
life* Though I was excited, I was not in the least 
nervous, It was not until some time afterward, 
when I had left Florence and had begun to make 
progress in my profession, that I awoke to the 
seriousness of operatic singing and began to grow 

Prima Donna at Sixteen 61 

really afraid of the limelight, of making false 
moves, of not doing justice to my natural gifts 
when facing a great crowd of watching, criticizing 

The debut that night in Florence was more of 
an adventure to me than a solemn performance, 
As a girl looks forward to her wedding day had 
I looked forward to my professional debut Few 
brides and fewer bridegrooms take their wedding 
day as the most serious day of their lives. So light- 
hearted and gay was I on my debut night that I 
still marvel at the success which was achieved. 
From the rise of the curtain to the last drop the 
performance was acclaimed as a triumph. Of 
course, everyone in the house by this time knew 
that sixteen-year-old Tetrazzini was the prima 
donna of the piece and was making her debut. 
Probably because of my youth I was treated more 
generously than I should have been if I were ten 
years older. Prophets may not be honored in their 
own country, and singers and musicians, probably 
because there are so many, are not over-esteemed 
in my native Italy. But Florence was most gener- 
ous to one of its own people that evening. Since 
then the enthusiasm of my fellow-townsmen at 
having produced an international prima donna has 
not been very marked. On the occasions when I 
have given a recital there I have always been 
gladdened by the sight of crowded houses of ap- 
plauding fellow-citizens. Nevertheless, Florence, 
like most other Italian towns, has never shown 

62 My Life of Song 

quite the same measure of appreciation of my sing- 
ing as London, New York, Petrograd, Sacramento, 
San Francisco and Buenos Aires have done. The 
last four have bestowed on me the freedom of the 
city and other honors. Perhaps it is because 
Florence has been so intimately associated with 
such great names as Dante, Michel Angelo, Machi- 
avelli and others famous in the arts that it con- 
siders a prima donna to be comparatively unim- 

That night some of the audience left declaring 
that a trick had been played upon them, " We do 
not believe that this was Tetraz&im's first performs 
ance," they said. Their sentiments were taken up 
in some of the newspapers, which said that, despite 
the fact that Tetramni was announced as a 
debutante, it was too evident, from the way I 
danced and sang and carried myself in this difficult 
part, that I was a practised artist and had played 
before large audiences elsewhere on many occa- 
sions* I was too confident, they explained, and I 
played with too much vigor, too much abandon, 
was too fearless and too much at home on the 
stage for the claim to be a debutante to go tin- 

I heard afterward that though I had shown 
no signs of nervousness^ all the other members of 
my family, sitting in their stalls watching me, were 
beside themselves with fear of a breakdown. My 
mother could hardJy look at me, as she was afraid 
her gaze might distract me from the part and the 

Prima Donna at Sixteen 63 

debut end in a deplorable failure. When the cur- 
tain dropped for the last time, and I had re- 
sponded to the end of a long series of tumultuous 
encores, my mother, my brother and sisters hurried 
round to my room behind the scenes, and there 
followed a time of congratulation and rejoicing 
such as is more common in Latin than Anglo- 
Saxon countries. All my family hugged and kissed 
me, and hugged and kissed me again. We laughed 
and cried together, at the same time lamenting 
that my father, who had always prophesied such 
great things for me, was not present to join in the 
family triumph. While our rejoicings proceeded 
one of the theatre hands came in and stated that 
a crowd had collected in the street outside with the 
intention of giving me a royal send-off. During 
the performance many beautiful bouquets had been 
thrown on to the stage to me, and these we piled 
into our carriage. 

" Bravo, bravo, little Luisa!" was the crowd's 
greeting as we left the stage door. The pavements 
from the theatre to my home were lined, even at 
that late hour, with large numbers of people, all 
of whom seemed to be shouting congratulations 
to me. Some of the occupants of the houses along 
the carriage-way picked the flowers, damp with the 
night dew, from their gardens and threw them into 
our carriage. The scene suggested to me the old 
triumphal processions of ancient Borne which my 
history master not so long since used to describe 
to me in glowing language. Time after time have 

64 My Life of Song 

I witnessed similar scenes after a performance, 
but none has impressed me as much as tliat glorious 
drive home on the night of my first appearance* 
There was no false shyness in the way I responded 
to the congratulations of Florence- I waved my 
hand and blew kisses in all directions. Some of 
the younger people ran behind our carriage all the 
way from the opera house to our home and cheered 
us as we went indoors. 

It was an experience that might easily have 
turned my head, but my mother, my brother and 
my sisters were too wise cotinsellors to allow me 
to develop in that way. They told me that the 
debut was not the end of the battle; it was but 
the beginning. The life would be always arduous, 
and if I were to continue as successfully as I had 
begun I must work hard, be thoughtful of others, 
and be sociable always. They told me that my 
star was unquestionably one of the most lucky in 
the firmament. Many a great prima donna, they 
said, had been obliged to pay, herself or through 
her friends, large sums to obtain the opportunity 
of a debut such as had come my way for nothing. 
Many worked for years for no salary, while my 
impresario had already put me on the pay-roll. 

The salary which had been offered me and which 
I had cheerfully accepted seemed to me then to be 
a big stun $100 a month. I laugh when I com- 
pare it with the amounts that I have since earned, 
though there are many young women in these post- 
war days who would call theaaafielves fortuaate if 
they were earning $25 weekly at sixteen. 

Prima Donna at Sixteen 65 

It was past three the following morning before 
we finished discussing all the exciting events at- 
tending my debut. We were all in my bedroom 
when we finally broke up. My family had gathered 
at my bedside and had hung the huge bouquets 
all round the room, which then looked more like 
a floral exhibition than a maiden *s boudoir. 

Events moved swiftly after that debut in Flor- 
ence. My impresario decided almost immediately 
that I was already sufficiently accomplished to 
appear in the capital. Consequently, he made ar- 
rangements for an early debut in Komte. I eagerly 
assented to his proposal, and it was not long after- 
ward that I was journeying to the Rome of which 
I had heard so mtuch but had so far never seen. 
I think I was almost as eager to see the sights 
of the capital as to sing in the principal opera 
house there. I was taken all round the Eternal 
City, and shown many of the historic sights which 
sent my childish mind far back in history, to the 
time of the Caesars and the Holy Roman Empire. 
I looked down on the yellow Tiber with wondering 
eyes as I thought of the days when Horatius, after 
keeping the bridge so valiantly, plunged into its 
deep waters. The Appian Way, along which the 
triumphant Roman armies marched, and which was 
once trod by St. Paul the Apostle; the Forum, 
where Mark Antony inflamed the populace against 
Brutus after the death of Gsesar; the Colosseum, 
where the Christians used to be cast alive to the 
lions these and many more of the sights of otic 

66 My Life of Song 

beloved capital thrilled my ytmng being during 
those wonderful early days in Ronue. 

But there was not too much time to be squan- 
dered on seeing the wonders of the town ; rehearsals 
had to be attended daily, and as the Court and all 
the ladies and gentlemen attached to it, as well 
as many other great personages, nobles, statesmen 
and other exalted residents in the capital, were 
expected to be present, there was every reason why 
the opera company should be tuned up to the high- 
est possible standard of perfection. I was again 
to be the prima donna. Yet the great significance 
of this honor, I am afraid, I did not completely 
appreciate at the time, I had no doubt as to m<y 
ability to carry the role through with complete 
success, but I did not fully apprehend the risk 
which the impresario was running in placing so 
young an artist on the stage before the illustrious 
company that was expected to be present "She 
may keep her nerve in her own Florence, but when 
singing before the Royal Family, the nobles, and 
all the big men and women of the capital she may 
lose her head, and the perf ormanee end disastrous- 
ly." This would have been the natural argu*)ent 
of most impresarios who had the interests of their 
theatre at heart. My impresario, however, was as 
confident as I was myself* 

It had been decided to present the same opera 
that I had been playing in Florence, L'Afn&ma, 
and I was to continue in the part of Inez* At this 
time the power behind the throne of the opera 

Prima Donna at Sixteen 67 

world was Donna Lina Crispi, a lady who was 
recognized as the leader of Eoman society. She 
made it a practice to attend all rehearsals and to 
criticise freely. I soon found that any suggestion 
made by her was always based on a very profound 
knowledge and was law to us all. 

There are two soprano parts in L'Africma, 
Selika and Inez. At the general rehearsal the 
soprano who sang as Selika went terribly flat dur- 
ing the great sextette scene, dragging all down with 
her, which left me to support alone the whole fabric 
of the music. After the unaccompanied portion 
the orchestra failed to take up the accompaniment 
again. To the maestro' s curt demand as to why 
they had failed to come in, they replied that the 
singers had fallen nearly a tone and had left them 
out in the cold. As we were going out I remember 
asking what would be the consequence if at the 
performance the next night the singing went flat 
again. Then someone standing near said: "Sig- 
norina Tetrazzini, when they sing so badly at gen- 
eral rehearsal you can always be sure that the 
opening performance will go magnificently. It has 
always been so, and it always will be so. I, Donna 
Lina Crispi, say so." It was the lady autocrat 
of the opera house who spoke, and so impressed 
had I been with her knowledge of opera that I 
felt her prophecy would be fulfilled. 

The morning of the opening performance the 
conductor, the mwstro Usiglio, gave me some 
words of counsel. " During the unaccompanied 

68 My Life of Song 


portion of the great sextette you must keep your 
eye on me, and I will give } r ou the cues," said he. 
"When I hear Selika singing flat I will make a 
sign for you to sing sharp, and this will pull the 
others up." On reflection it seems that it was 
asking a great deal of a girl of sixteen to make her 
debut in the capital before the Court, and to adjust 
her voice so as to assist others who might drop 
out of tune* 

It was then that I began to realize first the real 
meaning of stage fright. Even supposing I did 
not go wrong myself before that august assembly, 
I might yet be dragged down to perdition by the 

The evening came, and the King and Queen 
came too. I saw them in the royal box from behind 
the curtain. I had never seen either of their 
Majesties bef ore, and the state of my thoughts and 
feelings at this supreme moment can be easily 
conjectured. There was so much to think about: 
the Royal Family, my Rome d^but, the possibility 
of the company going flat, of my missing the cue 
from the conductor, my own nerves breaking down, 
and perhaps a bad break m my amazing run of 
good luck. But Donna Lina Crispi was right 
We sang dur way through iL'Africana that night 
in a laanner wMeh the Press generally conceded 
to be almost faultless, Certainly the flattering 
nature of the language used in describing my work 
was all that any debutante could denire. At the 
end of the great unaccompanied sextette there was 

Prima Donna at Sixteen 69 

a pause, and the audience, realizing that the repre- 
sentation had been flawless from beginning to end, 
then gave forth such a volley of cheers, accom- 
panied by clapping and waving of hands, as is 
rarely heard in Rorrte. 

It was during that performance that I acci- 
dentally produced a phenomenal note. Instead of 
finishing up on B, as I intended and as the score 
ordered, I found myself singing a note a full octave 
higher, the E alt. The note came as clearly as it 
did unexpectedly. It was heard with general sur- 
prise all over the opera house, and many people 
who had been turned away, and were listening out- 
side in the hope of hearing some of the higher 
notes, caught it distinctly and discussed it excited- 
ly. "Wherever did you get that note?" I was 
asked afterward; to which I was obliged to answer 
that I did not know. This answer was absolute 
truth. I had never tried to get it until then, and 
did not know I was capable of producing it. When 
it is achieved it is usually thin or cloudy, but that 
note came forth as full and round and easy as any 
of the others. Since then I have touched higher 
notes without difficulty, but I have never forgotten 
the surprise I felt when I first produced the E alt. 
It was this note which caused the mild sensation 
at my last London recital. I had not intended to try 
so high a flight during m y first song, as it is always 
well to work gradiially up to the mountain peaks. 
It was my intention to warm up the voice with 
smaller arias, but the programme was not arranged 

70 My Life of Song 

according to my plan. Before that vast concourse 
of people I felt slightly nervous at the beginning, 
and was not fully prepared when the time came 
to throw out that high note, so I did not attempt 
it. The audience, however, were very generous 
with their applause, and it was during the long 
burst of cheering that I decided to sing the last 
line over again. I tried the note quietly before I 
turned to the pianist, and found that it would come 
quite readily, And so it did* The second outburst 
of cheering was far greater than the first, and was 
so genuine that it convinced me that I had done 
the right thing. Of course, if I had been singing 
in Italy I should not have attempted to retrieve 
an unfortunate miss in this way. But I was in 
England, and had learned from many previous 
experiences with the English public that they al- 
ways appreciate an artist who does the unusual- 
more particularly if she does not happen to be of 
their own nationality. The newspapers were very 
nice about Tetrazsdni's first public slip and her 
immediate recovery. It was, in truth, the first 
time that I had failed to get this note from the 
time of my Rome dbut until then, and it has 
come without an effort since* I am now WDTB 
careful, however, not to attempt the great flights 
too soon after I take the stage, and I would counsel 
anyone who aspires to be an international prinrn 
donna always to watch her impresario eareMly, 
resisting resolutely any attempt to insert the roost 
difficult aria into the beginning of the programme. 



THE day after my debut in Rome there came a 
delightful surprise. I was informed that 
the Queen wished to hear me sing at a com- 
mand performance at the royal palace. My de- 
light at this new honor was somfewhat modified 
when I heard the name of the opera Wagner 's 
Tristan und Isolde from which I was expected 
to sing. Though I was thoroughly at home 
in most of the masterpieces, I had never 
studied the part of Wagner's great heroine. Of 
course, I had often heard of this tremendous work 
of Wagner, and was painfully aware that some 
of the glorious arias written for the famous char- 
acter Isolde were exceedingly difficult. I had 
heard that this powerful drama was regarded as 
the greatest expression in all music of passionate 
love, and that it had been inspired by a woman 
who came into Wagner's life when his musical 
genius had reached full maturity. 

As I did not know the part, the Queen, confident 
of my ability quickly to learn it, sent her own 
maestro to instruct me, I applied myself eagerly 
to the task of learning what I was then informed 
was the Queen's favorite opera, and it was not 


72 My Life of Song 

long before I was taken to the royal palace. There, 
in the presence of the Royal Family and a large 
gathering of distinguished persons, I sang some 
of tragic Isolde's beautiful songs. 

During the excitement behind the scenes which 
followed the close of the performance a royal 
messenger came to me and stated that Her Ma- 
jesty the Queen commanded my appearance before 
her. My heart beat fast on hearing the message, 
and I was quivering with excitement as I hurried 
to obey the royal command. My head was already 
whirling with the sensations of the past few days, 
and I was now fearful as to what I should say 
when Her Majesty greeted me. I thought out one 
or two pleasing phrases, but of course I forgot 
them when I was in the presence of the Q^een. 
There was one question which Her Majesty put 
to me which I wished very much that I had been 
prepared for. 

" You sang marvellously well, Signorina Tetraz- 
zini," said the Queen, smiling graciously as I en- 
tered and made my curtsy- Then Her Majesty 
asked me my age. Like all girls in their early 
'teens and unlike all women in later life, I was 
not anxious to be thought very young. Without 
hesitation I told Her Majesty that I was twenty- 
three. The Queen seemed surprised at my answer. 
"But you don't look it," she said; so I suppose I 
must have looked younger than I thought, After 
this the Queen made a remark which caused me 
a thrill of pleasure. " I will make a prophecy about 

The Queen's Prophecy 73 

you," said the Queen- "I prophesy that you will 
becomje a very great artist and have a very dis- 
tinguished career." 

Needless to say, the kindly words of my Queen 
occupied nay thoughts for a long time after that 
first pleasant interview. 

My feelings during those days are almost inde- 
scribable. When I told my friends what I had 
said to the Queen as to my age they were very much 
concerned. They pointed out the folly of adding 
to my years. "It is not unusual for a woman of 
twenty-three to appear as a prima donna on the 
operatic stage, but it is phenomenal for a girl of 
sixteen to do so," they said. Her Majesty, they 
argued, instead of thinking less of me because of 
my youth, would have been the more impressed. 
I then very much regretted having hidden my true 
age. As, however, I had been invited to sing at 
the royal palace, I was able to console myself with 
the reflection that I could not have done myself 
very much harm. 

My impresario in those days was greatly jubilant 
over my success and at the money that was rolling 
into the box-office at the opera house. He raised 
my salary from $100 a month the figure for 
which I had been singing in Florence to $200 a 
month, which then seemed to me truly magnificent 

I am never weary of reflecting upon those hal- 
cyon days of my Rome debut. I recall that I used 
to say to myself: "No xtfatter what anyone 

74 My Life of Song 

I am now a real prima donna, even though I am 
only a girl. I have appeared before the Eoyal 
Family, I have spoken with the Queen and been 
praised for my singing by the greatest lady in the 
land, and the Queen says I am going to have a 
great career. ' ' I danced and laughed and sang for 
joy during those fleeting early days, I revelled in 
my life. Everyone was kind to me. Everyone 
seemed anxious to do what he (or she) could to 
make my every minute as enjoyable as possible. 
The world I lived in seemed to be an earthly fairy- 
land. I began to be known in the capital As I 
walked about the streets with my friends I would 
see someone drawing another's attention to me. 
" There is Bignorina Te.tra^mni, the youngest 
primia donna," or "She is our new nightingale. 
Everybody is going to the opera to hear her/' were 
phrases which I was frequently overhearing in 
Rome. What young girl is there who would not 
feel a warm glow of pleasure as she heard people 
speaking her name and eulogizing her talent as she 
moved about the capital of her native country! 
And I must admit that I was very conscious of 
and gratified at the public interest whidt my pres- 
ence in Rome aroused. 

I have many other pleasant recollections of the 
Queen who was so kind to me during those early 
days in Rome. Only last June I received a letter 
from Her Majesty now the Dowager Queen Mar- 
gherita inviting me to the royal palace to smg a 
few songs to her in private* Gladly I obeyed the 

The Queen's Prophecy 

summons, and Her Majesty greeted me in her cus- 
tomary gracious way and reminded me of the Borne 
debut. "I am very happy, Signorina Tetrazzini, 
to see that my prophecy was fulfilled/ 7 said Her 
Majesty. There was an abundance of real feel- 
ing in her tones which reminded me of her man- 
ner of speaking when, as a girl, I was first called 
into her presence. Although Queen Margherita's 
hair has now grown white, she is still a very beau- 
tiful woman, and has retained the charm and 
sweetness of manner for which she has always been 
famed. After we had spoken about the prophecy, 
Her Majesty mentioned my sister Eva, and asked 
when she first became a singer. I told Her Ma- 
jesty that Eva had been singing a long time before 
I began. Then the Queen asked me to sing again 
some of those delightful arias from Tristm und 
Isolde which I sang to her as a girl. Afterward I 
mentioned that I was about to embark on my fare- 
well tour through America, and the Queen wished 
me every success. Then she declared that I must 
not think of finishing my career for many years, 
"I shall not allow you to do that yet," she said, 
sweetly imperious; and then added, "You must 
come and Sing to me again." When the Queen, 
followed by her ladies-in-waiting, swept gracefully 
out, I blew a kiss in her direction. As I did so the 
Queen saw me* A smile lighted her sweet face. 
She bowed and said: "Thank you, Signorina Tet- 
razzini" Before I left the palace I received a 
beautiful autographed photograph of Her Maj- 

76 My Life of Song 

esty, which is now hanging in the music salon at 
my own palace in Rome. 

"When my first season in Rome ended I received 
an invitation to go to Buenos Aires as the prima 
donna in the chief opera house in Argentina. It 
was a very tempting offer that was dangled before 
my eyes. It was made by an impresario who had 
heard me sing in Rome, I was eager to accept, but 
my relatives at first raised objection on account of 
my youth. Finally they changed their attitude 
and, far from placing obstacles in my way, did all 
they could to speed me on my journey. A lady 
chaperon was engaged to accompany me. My 
mother stood on the quay weeping as I was about 
to depart. When I saw her cry I wanted to aban- 
don the project, but I felt that it would be unwise 
*o do so. I tried to cheer her by saying that I 
should now be earning so much money that I 
should be able to send her large sums to spend on 
herself. The salary that I had been offered was 
$1,400 a month, a figure fourteen times as much as 
I was paid in Florence, seven times as much as I 
received in Rome, and almost as much as was then 
paid to an English Cabinet Minister. Most re- 
markable of all to me was the fact that I, still a 
girl in my 'teens, was to obtain it through my own 
efforts. My offer to send my mother some of the 
golden harvest which was to be gathered from my 
voice did not cheer her as much as it did me* I 
remeuaber that my mother, still weeping bitterly, 
said as we parted: "I shall be here to meet you 

The Queen's Prophecy 77 

when you return at the end of the season, " to 
which I replied, "Oh, yes, dear mother. It will 
not be long. " Neither my mother nor I then fore- 
saw what would happen to mie in musical South 
America, to which I was proceeding. Certainly 
neither of us thought that it would be four long 
years before we saw each other again. Yet so it 
was. When I did return it was to find my mother 
and relatives so weary with waiting that they had 
almost abandoned the hope of seeing "Baby Tet- 
razzini" again. My mother at first was rather 
cross with im for remaining away so long. 

Save for an attack of seasickness, the voyage 
from Genoa to Buenos Aires was for the main 
part enjoyable and uneventful. I used to dress as 
a minstrel and sing Neapolitan airs to entertain 
the other passengers, I loved these enjoyable im- 
promptu concerts in the saloon and on the deck, 
and, from what I then heard and still occasionally 
hear from others who remember the voyage, the 
other passengers enjoyed them too. 

When I was not singing or receiving requests 
for a song, I used to dance about the decks or enfr- 
bark on a little voyage of discovery on my own 
account. I explored the old vessel from stem to 
stern, from quarter-deck to the remote parts of the 
hold. A s s it was my first experience of sea life, I 
was athirst for first-hand knowledge of everything 
that w$nt ofi aboard ship- I asked the old salts 
the naraee of iihe various parts of the ship, and 
they readily e&o^h taM i&e $11 that I wished to 

78 My Life of Song 

know. Sometimes they would take from their in- 
exhaustible story-chest some old yarn of the sea, 
an account of a thrilling shipwreck, the story of a 
record gale, a tale of a mysterious island or a 
strange sea monster, and recount it to me in a 
manner so serious that they might have been tell- 
ing the Gospel story. I listened to their wonderful 
and somewhat eerie stories for hours, and some- 
times would reconstruct them and be the heroine 
of them as I slept in my cabin at night while the 
ship, rolling and heaving, bore me on to the new 
world almost in the wake of Columbus, to a bigger 
life, full of promise and perhaps wealth and inter- 
national fame. 

One day as I was pursuing my explorations I 
found myself in the cook's cabin. There was, as 
always, a strong smell of burning fat and an 
abundance of smoke and steam* As I was about 
to leave I noticed that the smoke seemed to be in- 
creasing with alarming rapidity. Then flames be- 
gan to come from the great whirling smoke-ball, 
and it was obvious to me that the galley had caught 
fire. In those days of my 'teens I did not know, 
as I know now, that the enemy most dreaded by all 
sailors is fire, A hurricane comes, and the sailor 
laughs; a wild north-easter only makes him turn 
up the collar of his oilskins; but the mention of 
fire will turn the hardiest viking pale* A fire 
aboard my first ahip I regarded as something of a 
joke- A little extra excitement, I thought, and 
then we should settle down to the normal life of 

The Queen's Prophecy 79 

song and dance and expectation. But I lost no 
time in running to the captain's cabin to tell him 
of what I had seen in the cook's galley. Imme- 
diately the captain understood the purport of my 
words, he dropped everything he must have been 
dressing and put his head out of the cabin, and 
with a face pale as death exclaimed, "All right! 
All right! I come quick. I come at once!" His 
head disappeared for a second, and then he came 
flying from his cabin and, without waiting to. speak 
to me, doubled across the deck to the cook's gal- 
ley. A little commotion followed, a number of 
orders were excitedly given, sand was thrown into 
the galley, and within a few minutes the danger 
was over. Afterward I was thanked for having 
hurried to the captain with the information before 
the fire had obtained too powerful a hold. It was 
pointed out that if the alarm had not been given 
so quickly we might have had to spend many try- 
ing hours in open boats, even if nothing worse had . 
befallen us. As for me, I am 1 afraid I treated the 
whole affair with great levity. The sight of the 
captain's startled face and the undignified way in 
which he skipped across the deck wias so funny 
that I could not help laughing heartily as I 
watched him. Save for this incident the voyage 
was unexciting. 

After I recovered from my early seasickness I 
enjoyed the novelty of the passage on that small 
ocean-going steamer, though I have to admit that 
I am not fond of travelling by sea. For this rea- 

80 My Life of Song 

son I have never yet accepted an invitation to tour 
Australia, although many lucrative offers have 
been made to me to visit that important British 
continent. Probably I shall never see Australia. 
The few comforts of that first voyage now seem 
very insignificant compared with a passage on a 
modern liner. The Mauretania, to my delight, 
survived the great war, although her sister Cun- 
arder, the Lusitania, suffered a terrible fate. I 
have travelled in the former vessel more often than 
in any other liner afloat, Whenever I cross the 
Atlantic I usually occupy a suite fitted with a little 
kitchenette on which my special dishes are pre- 
pared for Hie ; and I take aboard a tiny travelling 
piano, which I find very useful in keeping my voice 
in practice, for I am able to spend some hours 
daily at voice exercise in the welcome seclusion of 
this private suite* 

Though the then President of Argentina (Saenz 
Pena) was not a frequent attendant at the opera 
house in Buenos Aires before my arrival, it was, 
however, a hard and fast rale that the opera which, 
the President loved the best should first be given 
during each opera season. The President's favor- 
ite happened to be Lucia di Lawmermoor, one of 
Donizetti's works, in three acts, founded on the 
novel by Sir Walter Scott* It is a much criticized 
opera. Nevertheless, its ever fresh and expressive 
melodies are very pleasing and had a great hold OB 
otrr grandfathers. From my point of view no 
opera could have been selected wMch gave me a 

The Queen's Prophecy 81 

greater opportunity, for Lucia's arias have more 
possibilities for the prima donna than any of the 
other operas. For this reason Lucia di Lammer- 
moor is now generally known as the prima donna's 
opera. Like most operas, it ends in tragedy. 
Lucia, the soprano heroine, kills her false husband, 
Lord Arthur Buckland, then stabs herself. Her 
real lover, hearing of the tragedy, then betakes 
himself to the burying place of his fathers and 
falls upon his own sword. 

I sang the part of Lucia during fifty-four per- 
formances. From the first night that I appeared 
until the last night of the season the opera house 
was packed at every performance. I was told that 
not within the memory of anyone in Buenos Aires 
had there been so successful an opera season. One 
of the most remarkable features of this season 
was the presence of the President at the opera 
every time I appeared. His frequent appearance 
was the more noteworthy because he had achieved 
a reputation for deep piety and for constant at- 
tendance, both Sundays and week-days, at church. 
His nightly visits to the opera became the talk 
of the Press and of the whole town. The writers, 
particularly, were never tired of connnenting upon 
the spell of my voice under which, they said, he 
had fallen. When, some time afterward, the 
President was taken ill and died certain of the 
mora irreverent writers, speaking of how my voice 
had dragged him from his usual haunts to the 

82 My Life of Song 

theatre, declared that he had died of his love for 
Tetrazzini, which I thought was rather unkind. 

The President was a short, thick-set gentleman, 
who was always kindly disposed toward me. I 
remember that when the time came for me to give 
my fiftieth performance as Lucia he organized a 
great fete in my honor. The theatre was festooned 
with flags, flowers and the gayest bunting. All the 
important people in the Eepublic, including three 
ex-presidents, were present It was a night of 
cheering and encores and general gaiety. It would 
have been morning if I had responded to all the 
ovations I received. Everyone who could afford 
it seemed to have brought a large bouquet of beau- 
tiful blooms to the theatre that night. At every 
break in the performance some of these gorgeous 
flowers would be thrown on to the stage at my feet. 
When the performance ended the back of the stage 
and my own dressing-room were piled high with a 
wealth of floral gifts. During one of the inter- 
vals the President, amid general acclamations, 
presented me with a beautiful diamond star. Later, 
in my dressing-room, I pinned the star to my dress, 
and from there went to the President's box to 
thank him and his wife for the gift. The Presi- 
dent invited me inside, and then presented me to 
the public. Immediately they saw me in the Presi- 
dent's box all rose and, waving their hands, 
shouted, "Viva, Tetrazzini! Viva, President !" It 
was an unforgettable scene. 
From that time onward I could not move about 

The Queen's Prophecy 83 

Buenos Aires without attracting attention from 
the emotional crowds in the capital. I was earn- 
ing such a high salary that I had mloney to spend 
on horses and carriages, as my old maestro had 
correctly foreshadowed. As I drove through the 
town or in the park I was invariably recognized, 
and the people brought little baskets of violets and 
threw them into the carriage or on to the carriage- 
way. Soirely no queen could have enjoyed greater 
popularity than I during those wonderful early 
days in South America. When, many years later, 
I came to London and was lionized in much the 
same way, I would smile to myself, for London 
was taking to itself whatever credit there was for 
discovering in me a new, great, international song- 
stress. Londoners did not know, or had forgotten, 
the remarkable public demonstrations which had 
followed my appearance in South America. Some 
of my friends tell m'e that I have been discovered 
many times. They say that Florence, Rome, Bue- 
nos Aires, Petrograd, London, Madrid, New York 
all claim to have discovered me ; and then jok- 
ingly they proceed to tell me that India and the 
Far Ejast may yet claim to have first found in me 
a prima donna of pre-eminence. Despite the re- 
marks of my friends, I shall always keep green the 
memory of those enthusiastic music lovers in the 
Argentine Republic and the generous reception 
they gave me. 

On one occasion after I had been singing the 
children stopped my carriage, took my horses out, 
and themselves drew me through the town to my 

84 My Life of Song 

own residence. On another night some of the 
excitable young men who had been to the opera in- 
sisted on pulling my carriage round the town. 
It was late, however, and I was very tired, so I 
asked them if they would do me two favors. " Yes, 
signorina," they shouted back. "What are they?" 
I told them that my sister was due to sing at the 
opera house the next night, and I wanted them, to 
come along and give her the same enthusiastic 
welcome that they had always given to me. "Yes, 
yes! We will do it," they answered back. My 
other request was to be taken straight home, as I 
was tired out. They turned the carriage round, 
and, pulling with all their energy, quickly reached 
my house. They also kept their word in regard to 
my sister. The next night the house was crowded, 
and when Eva appeared they accorded her a 
tumultuous welcome before she sang a note. 

My horses were a beautiful pair, coal black, and 
full of dash and fettle. I used to drive them my- 
self. One day these lively animals bolted and made 
for a railway crossing at a momtent when a train 
was approaching at full speed. As I saw the 
train I lost my nerve. Closing my eyes, I said to 
myself, "I am lost," and waited for the terrific 
crash which then seemed unavoidable. But it did 
not cornel A gentleman who had observed what 
was happening dashed lip to my frightened ani- 
mals, grabbed their bridles, and pulled them up 
just in time to prevent a horrible smash. It was a 
full week before I recovered from the shock of 

The Queen's Prophecy 85 

those few exciting moments. Of course, all the 
town soon knew what had happened, for the Press 
published the story to explain my absence that 
week from the opera. 



WHILE still in my 'teens I essayed the 
difficult role of diva-impresario. It was 
during my first memorable season in the 
beautiful and modern Buenos Aires that the idea 
was first formed in my mind. 

" If all Latin Americans are such lovers of music 
as the citizens of Buenos Aires, an opera tour 
through Argentina should prove a very lucrative 
undertaking. " I hazarded this remark to a mixed 
company of artists, most of them Latin Ameri- 
cans, after one of our performances in Buenos 
Aires, the applause of the departed audience still 
echoing through my brain. 

To my astonishment the suggestion of an opera 
tour through Argentina aroused no enthusiasm 
among other members of my company. " Touring 
opera companies never pay in South America/'' 
declared an experienced baritone, speaking as one 
with authority. "I know that to my cost Once I 
went on tour through the Republic. It was my 
first and shall be my last experience. Before we? 
had completed a fifth of the tour we were doing 
so badly that we had to pawn our opera clothes 
to buy food and beds. We never completed the 


I Turn Impresario 87 

tour. The tenor and I walked 150 miles back to 
Buenos Aires, singing for food in the streets of 
the cities on the route home." 

The gloomy reminiscences of this aged baritone 
were supported by others present. All had some 
harrowing tale to tell of unsuccessful tours in 
which they had participated, and not one of the 
more experienced singers seemed ready to take 
jewels from 1 the treasury of grand opera to the 
country folk of Argentina. The general pessim- 
ism, I am afraid, only the more stimulated me to 
try my luck as the manageress of a touring opera 

'As those who have read so far into these pages 
have probably divined ere now, I am of a very 
buoyant nature and am a born optimist as well as 
a born singer. I could sing before I could speak; 
in my mind I was a prima donna before I sat for 
my first miusic lesson. That others had tried and 
failed always made me more keen than I should 
otherwise have been to try myself. "Very well,'* 
I said, and I am not now sorry for my sublinne 
confidence. "I am going to take a little company 
on tour through the cities in the hinterland of this 
Eepublic. It may be a failure, but I think it will 
be a success. Who will come with me?" 

"Oh, signorina, if you are coming it is sure to be 
successful!" exclaimed one of the impulsive in- 
strumtentalists, and some of the others agreed; but 
the older and wiser heads were shaken in dissent. 
"Buenos Aires is very different from the provin- 
cial cities," said a grey-haired 'cellist. "Here come 

My Life of Song 

and live the wealthy persons of the whole State. 
The capital is cosmopolitan, and our takings are 
largely drawn f rora visitors to this town from the 
United States and other countries. The people of 
the towns inland have neither money nor time, if 
indeed the liking, for grand opera." 

These or words of similar purport were general 
at this our impromptu council of war. Neverthe- 
less, I was not to be shaken from my project, and 
set quietly to work collecting a small company of 
accomplished singers and instrumentalists, and 
made ready to start immediately upon the conclu- 
sion of our remarkable first season at Buenos 

In view of the eagerness shown by impresarios 
ever since, I think it very remarkable that, despite 
my success in the capital, no impresario at that 
time seemed anxious to take me on tour through 
South America. My own impresario attempted to 
dissuade irfe from my projected tour, and assured 
me that I should lose in a few weeks all the money 
I had made since I landed in Argentina. Never- 
theless, the company started, I, the youngest of the 
party, taking full charge, making myself respon- 
sible for all receipts and payments. Perhaps it is 
almost unnecessary to state, in view of what I have 
already written, that good fortune consistently at- 
tended me in South America, the tour of the little 
company never being for a moment in danger of 
failing. From 1 the first performance in the first 
city at which we halted to the last we were a sue- 

I Turn Impresario 89 

cess. Not only did we collect sufficient to pay all 
expenses and all salaries, but there was money left 
to share as bonus at the end of the run. 

After we had demonstrated that it was possible 
to tour opera and to make the tour show a profit, 
as was only to be expected there were plenty of 
impresarios ready and anxious to take the com- 
pany through the Republic at the end of the next 
season ; and although, in a measure, I enjoyed look- 
ing after the business side of grand opera, I was 
not sorry, because of the many duties I was there- 
by saved, to hand over the control to a business 
manager during the succeeding tours. 

Many diverting incidents occurred on that first 
tour in which I was prima donna and impresario 
in one. I recall an amusing incident which hap- 
pened when I arrived at Salta, a town in the prov- 
ince of Buenos Aires. The governor (a title which 
corresponds to a mayor in England or in the 
United States) prepared to give me a royal wel- 
come. Instead of merely coming to the station, he 
cam-e by train and met me half-way on my jour- 
ney, bringing for roe a large basket of cerimolla, 
a very delicious fruit indigenous to this part of 
the world, a welcome gift on a burning day for a 
traveller in one of the cramped railway carriages 
then in general use. Although the governor sent 
word to the guard to avoid delays, as the Italian 
nightingale was aboard, we were three hours late 
in arriving at Salta town. 

When we reached Salta the whole community 

90 My Life of Song 

was awaiting, and gave me a welcome so cordial 
and demonstrative that it would have satisfied a 
Chinese empress. "Heavens, whatever is happen- 
ing?" I exclaimed to the governor, as the train 
pulled up and I saw the station, the approach and 
even the telegraph poles alive with people. 

"They have all come to welcome you, signorina," 
answered the governor, smiling grandly, "They 
all know of T'etrazzini, and so they have comte to 
see what you are like." 

My feelings may be imagined. Here was I start- 
'ing on a little operatic venture for which the ex- 
perts had prophesied failure ; there were to be few 
or no patrons, and I was to lose in a few weeks all 
my earnings of the past season ; I was to return a 
sadder and a wiser woman after having experi- 
enced the usual fate of the ambitious impresario 
in the hinterland of Argentina. Yet at the first 
town of any importance that I visited I was ac- 
corded this astonishing reception. I saw that a 
festive red carpet had been spread, across the sta- 
tion platform and laid right out to where the 
carriages awaited the governor, myself and my 
company. Flowers were heaped high on the plat- 
form, were waved to me from hundreds of out- 
stretched hands, and were spread over the car- 
riage and even on the carriage-way. 

As we stepped from, the railway car all the 
church bells of the town began to peal merrily in 
honor of Tetrazzini. Somie high dignitary after- 
ward informed me somewhat naively, I saw 

I Turn Impresario 91 

that the church authorities had argued that the 
pealing of the bells would bring the people into 
the town from the outlying districts, and these 
would bring money to the town and, incidentally, 
to the coffers of the church as well. 

It was dark as, leaning on the arm of the gov- 
ernor, I was escorted across the platform to the 
State carriage. T!he people swarmed thickly about 
the carriage to see me. One exceptionally daring 
spirit, before the driver had started, actually 
leaned in at the open doorway and struck a match 
in my face. Those were the days before the elec- 
tric torch became popular. This conduct did not 
appeal to me at the momlent, but the displeased 
look on my face evidently had no dampening effect 
upon this remarkable person. " Excuse me, 
madam, but are you really Tetrazzini?" he asked, 
speaking quite coolly. I replied that I was. Still 
staring interestedly into my face, he waited until 
the vesta had burned itself out; then, with a word 
of thanks and an apology, he withdrew. The State 
coach was not too roomy, and when the head and 
shoulders of my huge visitor were thrust inside 
there was very little space left 

Many were the delightful experiences of those 
days in South America. I remember that at Tucu- 
man the governor came to see me and cajolingly 
announced that near by was a little town he would 
very .much like me to visit. I was willing, as 
always, to go alniost anywhere, and so one day a 
party of us took the train for the township the 

92 My Life of Song 

governor had mentioned. After a short journey 
by rail, I arrived at a station at which was now 
the inevitable committee of ladies and gentlemen 
local notables waiting to give me an official 
welcome. Then I first learned of the real object 
of my visit. It was decidedly novel. 

"Signorina," they said, after the welcoming 
formalities were over, "we have here a cemetery 
without an enclosure." I remember raising my 
eyes slightly, as I could not quite appreciate what 
was coming. They proceeded: "This is not good 
for the township or our dead, for there is nothing 
to keep the wild animals out. Consequently the 
hyenas prowl among the graves and root up the 
bodies of our dead. Such a terrible state of things 
should not be, should it, signorina?" 

Still slightly mystified, I agreed with theim. 
"Now, we wish to ask yoii to sing for us, and so to 
raise the money to build a wall around our dead to 
keep them inviolate." I am afraid in those early 
days I was almost tempted to laugh at the unusual 
nature of the request, I had already sung for 
many quaint and novel objects, but not before, or 
since, have I ever been asked to use my voice as a 
means of preventing hyenas from desecrating the 
dead. Nevertheless, I recognized the worthy 
nature of the object and asked if there were a 
theatre in the town in which I could sing. 

"No," they sorrowfully admitted. "We have 
here only a fine large piazza" (an open square). 

I Turn Impresario 93 

"But I can't sing in a piazza/' I objected. Then 
someone made an offer. 

"If you will promise to sing we will have a 
theatre built ready for you to sing in within five 
days, and we will guarantee that it will be packed 
to the doors as well." 

The proposition seemed impossible, but the 
speaker was in dead earnest, and I consented. I 
did not then believe that a theatre could be run up 
in the time mentioned. But it was ! The Yankee 
hustle for which the United States is famous is not 
confined to the northern part of the continent. 
There is a good deal of it among the Latins of 
Argentina. Nevertheless, the man who actually 
made himself responsible for the work was a Bos- 
tonian ! He owned the largest sawmill in the place 
there were sawmills everywhere and gave all 
the timber, all the nails, and most of the push. 

Another resident came forward and offered the 
courtyard of his own establishment, and this offer 
was accepted. Others stepped forth and gave vol- 
untary help in constructing the place. I remember 
going down to the works to watch the novel theatre 
grow. Such a clattering and banging there was; 
but the theatre was literally taking shape before 
my eyes. In less than five days the roof was on, 
and only the detailed inside work remained to be 
done. Bed, white and blue draperies suddenly 
made their appearance, and these, tastefully hung 
inside the great new building, helped to make it 
very attractive, A stage had been fitted up, and 

94 My Life of Song 

a "royal" box had been made for the use of the 
governor. On the fifth day everything was ready 
for my concert. All the seats had been sold out 
for days, and since the building had cost nothing, 
provided I appeared and the people had no occa- 
sion to demand their money back, the funds neces- 
sary for the new cemetery wall were well secured. 

Tlhe railroad company, I remember, rose to the 
occasion. They allotted two special trains to take 
my company and others from Tucumian to this 
little township, and each of these trains was loaded 
to the full. As for the performance, it was a very 
sombre affair. To mark the serious object of the 
evening, everyone present was dressed in deep 
black ; all the members of my company, the instru- 
mentalists, and I too, were all in mourning garb. 

We certainly were a dismally apparelled assem- 
bly. I sang Q-ounod's Ave Maria and Pinsuti's 
Libra Sacra, and then for a novelty my small com- 
pany and the little orchestra which had come out 
from Tucuman gave Lucia di Lammermaar. De- 
spite the solemn appearance of the auditors and 
company, we were loudly applauded for our ef- 
forts. The expenses of the company and the or- 
-chestra I paid out of m|y own pocket, so that the 
total takings 5,000 Argentine dollars were all 
profit, and were handed over to the cem'etery wall 

At the close of the performance the governor 
leaped from his box on to the stage, and then lifted 
across a little girl carrying a velvet cushion. He 

I Turn Impresario 95 

made a brief speech in which he thanked everyone 
who had taken part in the novel effort, and then 
declared, amid surprise and tumultuous applause, 
that the theatre, once built, could not now be de- 
molished. It must ever remain as the home of 
opera for the little township. Then calling for a 
bottle of champagne, he broke it at the neck and 
christened the new wooden five days' old structure 
the " Theatre Luisa Tetrazzini." 

Then he beckoned the little girl to his side and 
took from the cushion she carried a beautiful gold 
medal bearing my initials 1 in diamonds and rubies. 
This he presented to me in the name of the citizens 
of the town, at which I was greatly delighted. I 
recall with the deepest regret that this generous 
gift, with thirteen others received during my South 
Ainerican stay, was later stolen from me. But the 
"Theatre Luisa Tetrazzini" still stands and flour- 
ishes to this day. I would love once more to sing 
in it, but I am afraid that I shall never again have 
the courage to risk another long sea voyage to 
those delightful South American States. 

To one South American town (Rosario) I re- 
miember I returned no fewer than seven times, and 
just before the end of my last visit one of those 
crow 1 ds to which I was becoming used collected out- 
side my hotel. I was seated at dinner when the 
waiter came to tell me that the crowd was outside 
and calling for me. I left the table and went to 
the balcony, where I made a little speech promis- 
ing to return. I thought then I should reappear 

96 My Life of Song 

in Bosario for certain within a year or two ; but 
the war came, .and I have not been back. The 
crowd was not content with my speech; they in- 
sisted upon my singing to them from the balcony. 
I have always avoided open-air singing, except in 
circumstances so pressing that it was unwise to 
refuse. That night I sang Santuzza's aria in 
Cavalleria Rusticana* and felt no ill effects of the 
outdoor effort. Though the crowd seemed to en- 
joy "Voi lo sapete," I felt that they were disin- 
clined to let me sing any other part than that of 
Lucia, for which South America seemed to have an 
insatiable thirst from the day of my first land- 

On my second tour south of the Equator I was 
prima donna in a company which included the 
.great tenor Tamagno. Now Tamagno, as every- 
one who knows anything of music is aware, has a 
voice that can only be described as tremendous. 
So great and powerful is his fine voice that he 
can, if he likes, drown all the other singers and 
almost the orchestra as well. Those who have 
heard Tamagno will not readily associate him with 
the role of Edgardo in this famous opera. Yet he 
sang it to my Lucia. It happened in this way. 
By some oversight the tenor who should have taken 
that role had not been engaged, or else at the last 
moment, as tenors sometimes do, had remained 
behind in Italy. Anyway, the manager (Ferrari), 
shortly after we arrived, was in a state of despair. 
"What are we to do for Signorina Tetrazzini's 

I Turn Impresario 97 

debut?" he demanded, tearing his hair. "She 
must sing Lucia. Where are we to find a tenor? 
There is no one in South America who can do this 
part as I want it done for the signorina's debut!" 

Then up spake Tamagno. 

' ' I will sing with Lucia, ' ' he declared. And sing 
he did. 

"But you will drown me, Tamagno," I remem- 
ber protesting to him before the performance. 

"Oh, dear no, signorina," he answered. "I'll 
sing quietly, and you sing as loudly as you can. 
We shall go well together." I was by no means 
reassured. I knew what would happen. Tamagno 
would start quietly with the full intention of giv- 
ing me a chance, and then he would forget himself, 
his audience and me, and throw the whole force 
of his mighty lungs into the part. 

And this was exactly what did happen. Although 
when I sing with any other tenor I have no diffi- 
culty in making myself heard, I do not think any- 
one heard me in my duet with the powerful-voiced 
Tamagno that*night. Certainly I could not hear 
myself. I knew that I was singing correctly, for 
there was no discord; but all I could hear was the 
mighty voice of Tamagno, which seemed to be 
growing steadily in volume with every bar of the 

Several times I whispered to him, "Do hold in 
your voice, Tamagno, or no one will ever hear me." 
He smiled into my face, said, "Oh! do take a good, 
deep breath," and then continued with all his 

98 .My Life of Song 

former vigor. The stage actually trembled from 1 
the vibrations of his enormous voice. But we 
camie through all right, and though I do not know 
whether the public heard me in that duet, they 
were very kind in their acknowledgments both to 
Tamagno and myself. 

After the first night the management found a 
tenor whose voice was more adaptable to mine in 
this role one of those poor unfortunates (of 
whom there are so many) who remain in South 
America, stranded after some failure of an opera 
company, with no money to take them- back to 
-their home in sunny Italy. 

I sang in several other operas with Tamagno, 
among them Les Huguenots, Meyerbeer's The 
Prophet (in which I played the part of Bertha 
and Tamiagno his favorite part of John, leader of 
the Anabaptists), and also in William Tell, Ros- 
sini's greatest work. In this opera Tamagno was 
Arnold, the son of TelFs friend, and I was Matilda, 
Arnold's sweetheart. Other members of that com- 
pany were the great Samrnarco and the tenor Bor- 
gatti, who had a great reputation in Italy and also 
in South America, which demands and gets the 
best artists in the operatic world. 

Of the many other happy experiences that crowd 
into my mind as I write of those wonderful early 
days in the Latin republics there comes to me the 
memory of my first crossing of the Rio into Monte- 
video. That city, not to be outdone by its neigh- 
boring rival, decided to give me a reception some- 

I Turn Impresario 99 

thing after the fashion of a scene in mediaeval 
Venice. Small boats gaily decorated with flowers 
came out to meet my steamer, and when I landed 
I found that a carriage, richly upholstered with 
beautiful, sweet-smelling roses, awaited me, while 
toy bombs, noisy but harmless, heralded my arrival 
with a series of explosions which created an effect 
suggestive of artillery. 

Later I went up-river to another town, Salto 
Orientale, which is about four hours' distance 
from Montevideo. Here there was another inspir- 
ing reception. Approaching my hotel I found that 
it was brilliantly illuminated, and as I drew nearer 
I discovered that my name, Luisa Tetrazzini, was 
displayed in large flaming letters, made by Bengal 
fires, across the front. These fires flashed from red 
to white, then to green, our Italian colors. There 
was more to come later, for the municipal band of 
twenty musicians entered the courtyard of the 
hotel and serenaded me. By order of the gov- 
ernor all the musicians were dressed in the uni- 
form of our Italian Bersaglieri as a special com- 
pliment to myself. 

When I reflect upon such scenes, which hap- 
pened not once, but almost daily during my first 
four years in South America, how can I help feel- 
ing proud of those remarkable experiences? Any 
one of them sometimes seems to me too good to 
have been real. As I reflect upon them I ask my- 
self sometimes if ever I really were in South 
America or did I pass through these remarkable 

100 My Life of Song 

events in some beautiful dream back in my child- 
ish days? Even if it were only to put on record 
some of the momentous times I experienced in 
South America I think there is justification for 
the penning of this, my Life of Song. 

"But did you never have any dreary times dur- 
ing those early years?'' is a question which my 
friends sometimes ask me ; and I have always to 
answer "No." My friends point out that every 
great artist at one time was in the rut. They say 
that at the start things go badly with all. The 
great ones of the stage have had to walk barefooted 
through the streets of the city that has afterward 
come to worship them. They have gone to an 
impresario, to be met with a cold stare and the 
dispiriting rejoinder, ' ' Full up. * ' Then they have 
turned away disconsolately to tread the muddy 
streets and wonder if they are to be a failure in the 
end. Everyone knows this is true. All the great 
artists I have met have had some story to tell me 
of the times "when they were down and out," when 
no one wanted them^ when no one believed they had 
genius, when they were climbing or attempting to 
climb. But with me this was never the case. I 
began, strangely enough, on the top. From the 
first public appearance that I made until now I 
have never had to solicit a position. I have always 
had a sheaf of letters from impresarios offering 
to tour me through this lucrative corner or that 
tempting part of the world. And I receive them 
still. At the moment I have now many invitations 

I Turn Impresario 101 

to return to -my beloved South America as well as 
requests to sing in every other continent. 

One aspect of South American life I must con- 
fess liked me not. Uinlike most women, I have no 
fear of mice. I can pick up one of these little 
creatures and hold it in my hand without feeling 
the slightest repugnance. But there was one ani- 
mated product of South America which was always 
giving me a fright- the locust If one of these 
insects alighted on my dress I fell into a panic. 
As the South Americans learned to know me well 
they came to know of my horror of these insects. 
One evening I was called back to the stage when 
there was handed to me over the footlights an 
enormous locust made of flowers. At sight of this 
familiar and dreaded shape I could not repress a 
little shriek. As the public were aware of the joke 
that was to be played they very naturally fully 
enjoyed this shriek of mine. 

This was by no means the only jocular tribute to 
my singing that came my way in South America. 
One evening I was presented with a floral tribute 
in the shape of a bird's nest by a member of the 
joke-loving Latin audience. The nest seemed to 
be lined with red roses, but when I thrust iny 
hand into it I felt a little peek. To my amazement 
out flew a cardinal, one of the most beautiful of 
the red birds common in South America. But all 
the jokes that were played on mie were invariably 
harmless and caused as much amusement to me as 
to those in whose minds they originated. 



ONE of the strangest tasks which I was invited 
to perform during that first year in the 
Argentine was to call on the President, and, 
like the suppliant lady who figures prominently in 
the history of every nation, great or small, beg for 
the reprieve of one who was languishing in a prison 
cell. The stirring story of the kind-hearted Eng- 
lish Queen Philippa, who, centuries ago, begged 
for the lives of the seven brave men of conquered 
Calais, leapt to my mind when the astonishing re- 
quest was made to me. 

It was made by two ladies who at one time were 
prominent in the social world of Buenos Aires. 
One was a slight woman with silver hair and a 
face both sweet and lined through many sorrows. 
The other was a much younger woman, once a 
fascinating brunette of the rich Spanish type, and 
still beautiful, although there were grey threads 
in her wealth of raven-black hair. They were 
mother and daughter-in-law, and they had only 
one point of similarity between them their eyes, 
which seemed to be full of anguish and yet patient- 
ly expectant of coming relief and future happiness. 
They told me that they had ventured to call in the 


Prison and Sea Adventures 103 

interest of a young man, a lieutenant in the navy, 
who was the son of the elder woman and the hus- 
band of the younger. 

I have forgotten all the details of the unfortu- 
nate affair for which this young naval officer was 
then imprisoned. In so far as I can remember, 
he was an officer on a vessel which had been 
wrecked; of those aboard only a few, of whom he 
was one, had been saved. There had been held a 
court of inquiry ; whether it was a fair trial or not 
I do not know. Some said "yes," some said "no." 
But the inquiry had been held nine years before, 
when I was a girl about eight years old, and the 
unfortunate son and husband of these two women 
who had come to me had been in prison during all 
these years. I listened interestedly to their sorrow- 
ful story, which made a promfpt and powerful 
appeal to my young and impressionable nature. 

"It is a very sad story you have told me," I 
remember saying, "It is sad for each of you and 
also for the man you both love. But tell me why 
you decided to tell it to me." 

"We came to ask you to help us," answered the 
mother, speaking quickly. "We have spent all 
these nine years trying to get someone interested 
who is powerful enough to secure his release. We 
have written to the president many times without 
avail; we had previously written to his predeces- 
sors, but they did nothing; we have written to the 
Press; they have sometimes taken up the case and 
demanded another inquiry but nothing more has 

104 My Life of Song 

happened. And so we have come to you. We 
know you can save him by a word." 

Then I saw their meaning. " Is it that you want 
me to go to the president*?" I began; and they, 
in chorus, broke in with : 

"Yes, yes, please. If you only would." Then 
the boy's mother proceeded: 

"We have been reading in the Press, signorina, 
that the president comes to the opera every time 
that you sing, that he is entranced by your voice, 
that he throws bouquets and purses of gold on to 
the stage to you, that he has presented you with 
a marvellous diamond star, and that he will do 
anything that pleases you." 

"Surely you are overestimating my influence," 
I rememtber saying, when the old lady ended her 
passionate outburst. "The president has been very 
kind to me, it is true, and has complimented me on 
my singing. But it is not likely that your presi- 
dent would interfere with the ordinary course of 
your country's laws to please me, even if he were 
not offended at an attempt which must seem a 
presumption by someone from another part of the 
world to interfere with the government of your 

Though I said this, or words conveying a similar 
meaning, I had already decided that here was a 
case after my own heart. Even should the young 
nian prove unworthy, I would make a strenuous 
effort to get him released for the sake of removing 

Prison and Sea Adventures 105 

the anguish from the eyes of those two women who 
loved him. 

"Oh! he will. Yes, we are sure that he will," 
they declared with emphasis. I shall never forget 
that pathetic scene in my private room in my house 
at Buenos Aires: the silver-haired mother, her 
aging, anguished eyes, her pleading tones, and the 
Spanish wife approaching middle age, whose rich 
beauty alone, I then thought as I sat there, would 
have caused the sternest official of the republic 
to have considered favorably any earnest appeal 
made by her. I remember asking where the sailor- 
officer was confined. They named the prison and 
invited me to go and see him. 

It was not difficult to secure admission to the 
grim building. Until then I had never seen the 
interior of a prison-house, though I have since 
gladly responded to an invitation to sing to convicts 
in jaiL My feelings were a mixture of gloom and 
curiosity as I passed through the great forbidding 
gates, across high-walled courtyards, along narrow 
sunless corridors, and past gangs of hideously 
garbed convicts some of whom surveyed me boldly 
and shamelessly, others furtively, as though their 
conscience or memories of the past prevented them 
from looking other human beings straight in the 
eye. The contrast between my gay world and theirs 
sent a gust of deep pity for them all through my 
ever-sensitive being. Then on again, until wie 
stopped at a narrow door heavily bolted on the out- 
side and locked. My warden-guide drew the bolt, 

106 My Life of Song 

unlocked the door, and I was in the presence of 
the ex-naval officer, the man who had already 
served nine years the best years, perhaps, of his 
life in this dreary house of correction and irk-* 
sonye control. 

A bowed figure, head resting in his hands, his 
elbows on his knees, his eyes staring on the floor, 
met my gaze as I entered. In an instant he was 
on his feet, looking wonderingly from the warden 
to me and from me back to the warden. It was 
quickly explained who I was and why I had come. 
As he listened a flush of color rushed into his pale 
face; the hopeless, despairing expression which I 
had observed in his eyes changed; hope had come 
back once more. I have often noticed during my 
life as a prima donna the truth of what the poets 
and the sages have written in many languages 
concerning hope. "Hope springs eternal in the 
human breast." I have observed it to be true in 
men and women of all ages. Sickness or misfor- 
tune, war or calamity comes, but humanity, how- 
ever badly stricken, will to the end see and cherish 
a gleam of hope in the bitterest hour; the belief 
that there is a silver lining to every cloud is present 
if obscured even in the gloomiest pessimist 

When I left the presence of that officer-convict 
lie was already counting himself a free man, was 
speaking ecstatically of a new life of liberty in a 
world where there were no prison bars intervening 
between him and the glorious sunlight "Oh, to 

Prison and Sea Adventures 107 

be free again, Signorina Tetrazzini!" he breathed 
as he kissed my hand and bade nle good-bye. 

I heard him uttering thanks and speaking of 
freedom as the warden locked and bolted his door 
from the outside world and as we were walking 
away down the long, semi-dark corridor. As we 
went I said to myself: " Luisa Tetrazzini, the 
president says there is no singer in the world like 
you. I will show him that I can do more than 
sing : I can plead for the liberty of a human being. 
If he will not listen to miy pleadings I will set 
them to music and try to secure this man's liberty 
with the magic key of song." 

From the prison I drove straight to the presi- 
dent's official residence and sent in msy card. I 
am afraid I was all aflutter as I did so, and more 
so when the servant returned almost immediately 
with the announcement: "The president will see 
you at once." Before I was shown into the presi- 
dent's room I had prepared a simple little speech 
which I felt assured I could deliver with very 
telling effect. I had plenty of confidence in myself 
and little doubt as to the iiltimate success of my 
mission of mercy; but I was not quite prepared for 
what was to come. Nor did I expect that it was 
the president who was to score over me by giving 
me a pleasant surprise instead of my surprising 
him/ with a bold and unusual request. 

"I have come to ask a favor " I began, when 

the president sternly interrupted me with: 

" Please do not ask it, signoriua." 

108 My Life of Song 

This greeting, I confess, took me aback some- 
what, but as I was about to begin again the presi- 
dent informed me that there was now no need for 
me to proffer the request that I had come to him 
to make. 

"But why?" 

"Your request is granted before you ask it," 
answered the president, his assumed sternness giv- 
ing place to a pleasant smile. 

"But you do not know what is my request," I 
protested. "It may be something which you will 
not like to agree to." 

"Not so, Signorina Tetrazzini," he answered. 
"For I know both the nature of your request and 
why you have come to make it." 

I must have looked very surprised, for he pro- 
ceeded: "Do not look so incredulous, signorina. 
It is not very wonderful that the president should 
know of what is happening in the establishments 
and government offices of the country of which he, 
at the moment, is the head. It was I who signed 
the warrant giving you admission to the prison, 
and it is not surprising that I should have been 
informed of the reason for your visit; and that I 
should have divined that after you had seen this 
young officer you should have determined to secure 
his release. Well, now, it will please you to know 
that I have done something which will be better 
even than immediate release for a release would 
still carry with it the stigma of the past years. I 
have ordered a new trial, and I can tell you before 

Prison and Sea Adventures 109 

the trial takes place and it will take place at once 
what will be the result. This man will be found 
innocent and will be released immediately. And 
though he has suffered a long term of imprison- 
ment, he will come out with his character com- 
pletely vindicated/' 

Of course I was greatly elated at the outcome 
of this little episode, as were the naval officer, his 
wife and his mother. They all came to see me 
afterward and, speaking with great emotion, 
thanked me very sincerely for the interest I had 
shown. To me it was one of the brightest hours 
of all those sunny days I spent in the Argentine 

After the affair was over the three, now happy 
in reunion, left Buenos Aires for a quiet little 
home in the country where, in those peaceful cir- 
cumstances, they soon, I hope, recovered from* their 
long and trying ordeal. I had a very pressing 
invitation to visit them in their rural home, but, 
unfortunately, the exigencies of my operatic en- 
gagements prevented me from accepting. 

I had not long been in South America before I 
discovered that there are many and very serious 
disadvantages of popularity. Often have I heard 
men and women, highly placed in the world, lament 
the trials which attend upon the famous. I have 
Iread amusing stories of the artifices adopted -by 
certain eminent persons to avoid the unwelcome 
attentions of the crowd. I must confess that I 
have always enjoyed being "lionized" as much as 

110 My Life of Song 

those who have been the "lionizers." I think that 
one of my adventures while escaping from unwel- 
come attentions will compare for novelty and ex- 
citement with many of the stories that I have read. 

As I have already said, my first engagement in 
South America was for one opera season only; but 
after the phenomenal success of the first few weeks 
I was re-engaged for the next year at $17,500 a 
month. I fully intended to return home at the 
end of the second year, but my impresario and all 
interested in the opera besought me to continue for 
another year, and I agreed. Again mjy salary was 
raised, this time to $22,500 a month. 

At the end of the third year the request to re- 
main for yet another season was again preferred 
and pressed, my impresario using all the influence 
and arguments he could think of to induce me to 
accept. I knew that my people at home were very 
upset at my prolonged absence, and it was only 
after many refusals that I finally capitulated. 
Again my salary was raised, this time to $27,500 
a month. 

After a time mjy impresario projected a tour for 
me through Brazil and the other countries in and 
around the upper part of South America. I was 
vfery keen on this tour and readily agreed to it. 
I had not realized the full .extent of the impression 
that I must have made on the Argentine Republic, 
but I was about to do so in a way which was more 
drastic than pleasant. 

My impresario had a big rival, a man occupying 

Prison and Sea Adventures 1H 

a high position in Buenos Aires. The rival im- 
presario determined that I should sing for him that 
year in Argentina, and he made me a very tempt- 
ing monetary offer. I believe I was the first prima 
donna to reject an offer made by him, and when I 
did this he was very indignant. It was brought 
to my notice soon afterward that the rival im- 
presario had sworn that, since I had declined his 
offer in favor of a tour of the neighboring repub- 
lics, he would prevent me from leaving Argentina. 

I laughed lightly when I heard of his threat, 
but my informant did not join me. " Why are you 
so grave ?" I asked him. "Is Argentina so be- 
nighted a country that it is possible for an angry 
impresario to prevent a popular singer, a native 
of another country, leaving your capital ?" 

"It has been done before," said my own im- 
presario, "and it is quite possible to do it again. " 


"He is a man of considerable influence. He 
could pretend that you have promised to stay here* 
and have you taken off the steamer and brought 
back to the town." 

"But we could fight him in your courts, surely?" 

"O9i, yes; but we may lose. In any case we 
should ruin all our fixtures for this tour, and I 
should lose a little fortune through broken engage- 

Unfortunately for me, the president who had 
been so kind to me during the early days of my 
visit to the Argentine, had died ; otherwise I should 

112 My Life of Song 

have gone to Mm with another difficult case requir- 
ing his official intervention, and one in which I 
had a more personal interest than the other. 

" Cannot I get out of the country in disguise ?'* 
I asked after pondering over the dilemma for 
some minutes. 

My impresario 's face lightened. ' ' Would you be 
prepared to do that?" he asked eagerly, 

"Til do anything possible," I remember answer- 
ing, adding, "I am always game for an adventure. " 

We then discussed the ways and means. At 
last we devised a novel scheme which, though it 
certainly looked feasible, promised to be very much 
of an adventure ; and when it was translated into 
action, proved to be even more exciting than we 
had anticipated. The scheme provided that my 
impresario and I should go aboard a Brazil-bound 
ship at anchor at Buenos Aires. Once aboard I 
was to dress in the blue sailor rig of a pilot's boy 
I was barely eighteen at the time and by an ar- 
Tangement was to leave the ship in the boat with 
the pilot. After the ship had passed beyond the 
radius controlled by the Argentine Republic, by 
which time all danger of interference from officials 
would be over, the pilot boat would row out to 
the ship, which would then stop and take me aboard 
again. It was a pretty scheme, but there were 
several chances of its going wrong. 

The first part of the plan worked well We my 
impresario and I went aboard, and I quickly 
donned the garb of a sailor boy; the pilot's cap 

Prison and Sea Adventures 

effectually hid my long coil of nut-brown hair. So 
good was my make-up that I strolled about the 
busy deck, my hands in the side-pockets of my 
sailor attire, unconcernedly whistling. I saw my 
impresario, standing at a vantage point of the 
deck, smiling into his beard and looking approv- 
ingly at me from the tail of one eye. Though I 
.appeared to show little concern, I must say that 
the fresh sea breezes somewhat chilled me as I 
strutted around. Presently the time came for the 
pilot to put off. He called sharply to "his boy," 
and I ran across the deck and down the swaying 
rope-ladder with an agility that afterward brought 
me some embarrassing congratulations. 

We were well away in a tiny open boat when 
what my impresario feared happened. Suddenly 
there was a little commotion ashore, some shouting 
through megaphones, and then government officials 
came aboard to inform the captain that Signorina 
Tetrazzini could not be allowed to leave the coun- 
try. A vigilant search followed, but I was not to 
be found. The officials, satisfied that I had missed 
the boat, went ashore, and the ship proceeded on 
its way until it had left national bounds. 

Meanwhile I was feeling very unhappy. The 
fresh breeze which I had felt as I swaggered about 
the ship had increased, and the choppy sea had 
become almost dangerously rough for the small 
pilot boat in which we were then dancing on the 
billows. I am not a great lover of the sea even 
when travelling in so comfortable a liner as the 

114 My Life of Song 

Mauretania; and I had only consented to this ad- 
venture because I was so eager for a tour in Brazil 
and because I understood that at this time of the 
year the sea was generally calm. To mlake matters 
worse, the captain of the passenger ship became 
refractory. When he saw us tossed about on the 
waves several miles from the coast he suddenly 
changed his mind and told my horrified impresario 
that it was too dangerous to risk picking up a boat 
in that high sea and that he should signal to us 
to return to the safety of the Argentine shore. 

The poorest imagination, I think, could readily 
grasp the film possibilities of an incident of this 
unusual nature ; so far I have not heard that the 
"movies" have been engaged to depict a scene 
exactly corresponding to this true incident from 
my early life. I often laugh to myself as I picture 
that serio-comic happening. Back in Buenos Aires 
was the rival impresario, probably tearing his hair 
because his myrmidons, engaged to prevent me at 
all costs from leaving Argentina, had allowed me, 
in a way then unknown to him, to slip through his 
illegal grasp. On the vessel, also in a frenzied 
state, as all impresarios frequently are, was my 
own impresario, cursing the fate which had upset 
his astute scheme at the moment of seeming 
triumph. By him was the sea-captain, imperturb- 
able in face of my impresario's alternate entreaties 
and threats; and I, a naturally bad sailor, garbed 
in an ill-fitting sailor-boy's suit, my teeth chatter- 

Prison and Sea Adventures 115 

ing with cold, and already experiencing tlie first 
unpleasant spasms of seasickness. 

My companion rowed Ms hardest, but we saw 
that instead of drawing nearer to the vessel 
a greater distance was separating us at every 
stroke. And the sea, far from moderating, was 
growing angrier than ever. At this time I felt 
seriously alarmed and was almost ready to give 
the word to put back to Buenos Aires, which was 
so anxious not to lose me. Some of the white- 
crested waves were actually breaking over the little 
boat when we saw at last the steamer was slowing 
down. I took an oar and gave what help I could 
to nay " adopted father," although I am afraid I 
was of very little assistance. I was chilled to the 
bone as I mounted the rope ladder to the deck, 
where my impresario waited, with hand out- 
stretched to help and to welcome mte aboard. Not 
only my impresario, but all the rest of the pas- 
sengers, who by this time had learned the true 
nature of the little drama which was being played, 
were gathered at the top of the ladder to greet me, 
which they did with a hearty cheer. It was not 
long before I had doffed my incongruous clothing 
and was sitting in the cabin in my ordinary travel- 
ling costume. 

"But why were you so long in stopping the 
ship*?" I asked my impresario as we congratulated 
each other on our triumph. Then it was I learned 
that I had nearly been left behind and that it was 
only after my impresario had given the captain 

116 My Life of Song 

a handsome bribe that lie had consented to stop 
the ship. The amount of the bribe was 100,000 
francs, and the impresario had written a check for 
the full figure and handed it to the captain on the 
spot. He had further given the captain his under- 
taking to accept full responsibility for any legal 
trouble which might follow, so that the captain 
ran no danger of being " carpeted" by his company 
for a breach of the regulations. 

The cautious captain need not have been so fear- 
ful of eventualities. There was no unfortunate 
sequel to the incident. We made a good voyage 
and I had a sensationally successful tour. When I 
returned again to Buenos Aires, far from having 
to face any official hostility, I was greeted with all 
the old-time cordiality, and the succeeding Buenos 
Aires season was as successful as those which had 
preceded it. But it was never again necessary for 
me to escape from the country in the guise of a 
pilot's boy; if it had been I should not have 
adopted this ruse. 

Though some may think that my action was lack- 
ing in the dignity which should ahviays be main- 
tained by a prima donna, I do not regret the part 
I played, and I have always felt pleased that even 
in those early days I was successful in doing what 
I have occasionally done since, in that I outwitted 
an unprincipled, over-reaching and powerful 



MANY exciting and several really thrilling 
experiences fell to my lot during subse- 
quent tours through the South American 
Republics and in Mexico. I was in Rio de Janeiro 
at the time when one of those revolutions in which 
South America loves to indulge was in full blast. 
My first intimation of the revolution was what 
seemed to me to be a tremendous explosion on a 
battleship out in the bay; it was the sudden firing 
of a heavy gun by the revolutionists, who had taken 
over command of the warship. A terrific crash 
followed; then I heard the sound of falling mas- 
onry, and one part of the hotel in which I was 
staying tumbled into a heap of broken bricks and 
splintered wood. The shell had partially wrecked 
the hotel. Women screamed, men rushed excitedly 
about the streets around the hotel shouting for or 
against the revolution, and someone in authority 
came to me and advised me to join the other citi- 
zens, who were hurrying to the shelter afforded 
by the high hills overlooking the bombarded city. 
.As we hurried along we head the guns from 
the city answering the fire of the revolutionaries 
aboard the Brazilian warship. Though it was not 
so terrible an ordeal as the hapless Belgians suf- 


118 My Life of Song 

f ered during the initial onslaught of the German 
army, while it lasted it was a most thrilling and 
panicky experience. I thought of that scene at 
Eio de Janeiro when, during the early days of the 
war, news came of bombardments of Belgian, 
French and British towns, and my South American 
experience, brief though it was, helped me to 
visualize something of what the European war 
really meant. 

The population swarmed out to the shelter of 
the heights, from which those of us who were not 
too frightened to watch could view the big-gun 
duel that was proceeding below. Near by was 
standing a captain in the Government forces, and 
he interpreted to me the meaning of certain hap- 
penings marking the various stages of the fight* 
After a time he grew very exeited and declared 
that the city was winning. 

"You will be able to sing Here again publicly 
in a day or two," he exclaimed. 

But I shook my head. "I cannot sing in a city 
where your own battleships fire on your own people 
without warning, ' ' I replied. Nor did I sing there 
again that tour. I left as speedily as possible for 
Santa Teresa, where I could be out of danger of 
big guns and contending governmientalists and 
revolutionaries. I love the Latin South Americans 
for their many commendable qualities, particularly 
for their unrestrained passion for song, but their 
political upheavals are much too violent for my 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 119 

In Uruguay, another little Republic which I 
visited about this time, I had an experience of a 
different nature. The orchestra at the opera house 
of one of the smaller towns at which I was singing 
heard of the large sums I was now earning with 
my voice, and became very envious. They held a 
little council of war, and then sent to me an intima- 
tion that they would not play for me unless I gave 
them from my own wages the equivalent of their 
own normal earnings; in other words, they pro- 
posed to obtain double pay at my expense. I had 
no objection to the orchestra getting as much pay 
as their services could command, but I strongly 
resented being asked to pay them a bonus for play- 
ing in an opera in which I sang, and I told them 
this. ' ' Very well, ' ' they retorted, ' ' we will not play 
for you, Signorina Tetrazzini. We shall strike/' 

The evening came for me to make my appear- 
ance, and the house was crowded with opera lovers 
who had read about my singing in Buenos Aires 
and wfro had comedo see if I were as good as 

report said. At the taae fixed for the start I went 
before the curtain, addressed the house, and ex- 
plained the situation. "I am very sorry, " I con- 
cluded, "but the opera cannot be given. You will 
all get your money back at the doors. '* 

A murmur of annoyance ran through the packed 
theatre, and then a voice from the gallerv de- 
manded: "Are the artists here?" 

"Yes," I replied. 

"Are you willing to sing?" 

120 My Life of Song 

' ' Oh, yes, of course. It is only the orchestra that 
has struck. " 

"Well, then," said my gallery interrogator, 
"there are a piano, a violin. There must be some- 
one here who can play one of those instruments ; 
and the maestro is here: let us get on with the 
show. Hang the orchestra!" 

Cheers from all parts of the house showed thatl 
the audience were more ready to listen to a scratch 
performance than to go away with their seat 
money, and so we gave the opera as best we could, 
with only a violin and a piano as accompaniment. 
Far from the performance being unsatisfactory, 
we had more applause that night than later on when 
the orchestra accompanied us. Immediately the 
opera was over, the municipal band, acting under 
the special orders of the governor, came to the 
stage door to play me back to my hotel. The mem- 
bers of this band had arrayed themselves in the 
unif om of the BersagUeri (one of the Italian regi- 
ments) as a special compliment to me, and play- 
ing snatches from the opera we had just given as 
well as Italian martial music, they escorted me 
through the crowded streets of the town. What 
with the cheering people in the streets, the music 
of the bandsmen, their Italian attire, and the 
clanging of the church bells which had also been 
ordered to ring in celebration of my visit the 
whole scene grew very impressive, and was made 
more so by the unfavorable circumstances in which 
the evening had opened. As was only to be ex- 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 121 

pected after such a demonstration in the theatre 
and the town, the orchestra quickly changed their 
attitude. The next day they sent to me an apology 
for haying tried to wrest an unfair advantage from 
me, and from then onward they played for me 
without a murmur every time I appeared. 

A romantic incident in which I was the unfortu- 
nate heroine occurred in a wild country region in 
the Argentine about this time* I had accepted an 
invitation to spend the week-end on a large ranch 
a long way inland. The proprietor was a very 
wealthy mian, but he, his wife and sons, though 
kindly people, were rough and uncultured. They 
were the " new rich ' ? of their day. I did not realize 
until I met them in their own home how fierce and 
wild they were, or I should not have accepted the 
invitation. Their home was magnificently fur- 
nished; viewed from the interior, it might have 
been the town house of a very affluent London 
merchant. Pile carpets, oil paintings, priceless 
carved furniture, modern fittings and crowds of 
servants made this great jhtouse in the wilds seem 
delightfully incongruous. 

One evening all the guests save myself had gone 
to sit or play on the lawn prior to dinner. I had 
noticed during the afternoon that one of the sons 
of the house, an exceptionally fierce-looking, power- 
fully built young giant of about twenty, was shyly 
attempting to pay me attentions. When the guests 
went outside he saw me go to my room!, and ob- 
viously decided that the proposal which he was 

122 My Life of Song 

contemplating should be made at this seemingly 
propitious time. 

When I, all unsuspecting, came down to the 
drawing-room, I saw this strange, wild young man 
standing in a tragic pose in the centre of the room. 
His head was thrown back and his dark eyes were 
flashing peculiarly. One hand was held aloft as 
though he were a statesman about to make a solemn 
announcement, and the other hand was held behind 
his back. I stopped suddenly, as I entered, and 
looked all round the great room in the hope of 
finding someone else there. But we were alone. 
Both doors were closed, and the bell was on the 
other side of the dramatic young giant. What 
frightened me most was the mysterious little move- 
ments that were being made by the arm and hand 
behind the lad's back. 

As I stood there, wondering whether to open the 
door and rush back to my room or to scream, the 
fierce youth, in a sepulchral voice, addressed me 

"Signorina Tetrazzini, I love you. Will you 
kiss me?" 

It was a situation which required tact. "It is 
very nice of you, Amato, to want to Mss me," I 
answered; "but I don't know you yet, and I don't 
kiss persons I don't know." 

This answer of mine was apparently different 
from what he had expected. He was slow of 
thought, and it was several seconds before he spoke 
again. Then he suddenly burst forth with: 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 123 


"Signorina, you must kiss me now!" With that 
he whipped from behind his back the ominous 
something which I had felt rather than seen he had 
been holding there for some purpose from the timie 
I was due to enter the splendid drawing-room. This 
something was a long, vicious-looking dagger; its 
polished blade caught and reflected the bui-ning 
rays of the red evening sun now streaming through 
the window. To my horrified eyes it seemed that 
the blade was dripping blood! 

The hilt of the weapon was of silver, beautifully 
chased. The weapon itself is today one of my most 
prized souvenirs, and has a place of honor in my 
home at Lugano. Whenever I look at it I shudder, 
and then smile at the recollection of the circum- 
stances in which it came into my. possession. I see 
again that picture of the wild-eyed youth standing 
in the centre of the expensively furnished drawing- 
room, on the ranch in the wilds of Argentina, with 
the blood-red rays of the sinking sun catching the 
polished blade. For fifteen years, in all parts of 
the world, I used this same dagger when singing 

"What have you got there 1 Put that away at 
once!" I exclaimed, as the tragic youth produced 
the dagger. Instead of doing so, he turned the 
point toward himself and slowly pressed it to his 
heart. I thought he would stab himself before my 
eyes, and I turned cold and sick with horror. 

"Now will you Mss me, signorina? If you do 
not, I will plunge this dagger through my heart 

124 My Life of Song 

as I stand here before you," he said deliberately. 

I thought it best to try coaxing, "But why kill 
yourself, Amato?" I asked. "I shall not be able 
to kiss you when you are dead. I cannot tell you 
at once whether I will kiss you or not ; I must have 
a little time to think it over. You see, we Italians 
never kiss anyone, until we know them very, very 
well indeed. Now, suppose you give me that lovely 
dagger of yours as a keepsake? Then I will go 
out on the lawn and think over what you have 
said, and I will tell you presently if I like you 
enough to kiss you. " 

As I spoke the desperate frenzy seemed to dis- 
appear from his dark eyes. He lowered the dagger 
and handed it to me. 

"Now let me pass, Amato, please," I said; and 
he stepped aside. 

"And you will come back presently and kiss 
me?" he urged, as I, greatly relieved, disappeared 
through the doorway, carrying the captured silver- 
hilted dagger in my hand. 

Outside on the lawn I met the rancher himself, 
and I thought it wise, in the interests both of 
myself and his son, that he should know of the little 
drama which had just been played in his own 
drawing-room. Of course, I expected the father 
to be very upset and apologetic at the news that 
one of his guests had been compelled to go through 
an experience of this nerve-trying nature. But I 
reckoned without thinking of the ranchman's social 
code. Far from being apologetic to me and furious 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 125 

with Ms son, lie was greatly amused at my story. 
He thought it an excellent joke, he said. Then 
he casually told me that I should take no notice 
of his sons, because they all went slightly mad 

"But, senor," I remonstrated, " don't you think 
it rather unwise to invite so many persons to your 
house if your sons sometimes go mad ? There may 
be a tragedy here some day." 

"Oh, don't you worry, signorina," he replied. 
"My sons are all right. They would not hurt a 
leaf. Take no notice of them." 

The father's careless assurance did not relieve 
my mind very much, and I resolved as we went in 
to dinner that I would take care not to be too 
much alone during my brief stay in that beautiful 
home of wealthy wild men. It was with a mixture of 
relief and apprehension that I saw the place of 
Amato vacant at the dinner-table that evening. 
My hostess casually remarked on his absence, but 
my host, smiling cheerfully at me the while, again 
observed, "Don't worry about Amato. He has 
probably got one of his mad fits again. Hell be 
all right in a day or two." 

I saw no more of Amato that evening, and at 
breakfast time I noticed that his place was again 
empty. Despite his father's careless assurances, 
I had an uncomfortable feeling that the reckless 
young savage had committed suicide or done some- 
thing nearly as desperate. All the morning I ex- 
pected to hear someone announfee that his dead body 

126 My Life of Song 

had been found on some part of the ranch. I was 
informed during the day that no one had seen 
Amato since the previous evening, a:nd that he had: 
not slept in the house at night, and had left no 
message as to where he had gone. What struck 
me miost was that I was the only person who 
seemed to be interested in Amato. 

"He often disappears in this way," said his 
mother, when I mentioned the matter to her. Dur- 
ing the afternoon the mystery of his disappearance 
was partially cleared up. As I was walking about 
the ranch I came to a huge tree which attracted 
my attention because of some white lettering- 
showing that the cuts had been newly made on 
the bark. There, cut out in huge capitals, were 
the two names: "Tetrazzini and Amato." The let- 
tering had been executed with considerable skill, 
and the fact that the names were in one line instead 
of one above the other suggested that the writer 
wished it to be understood that we had been de- 
stined to walk side by side through life. 

But there was something more startling than the 
way our names were written, for the love-sick 
youth had cut around them a shape resembling a 
humian heart, and in that part which embraced the 
name of Amato there was thrust a knife. The 
workings of this poor lad's mind were plain, and 
I felt very sorry for him at the time. But where 
was Amato ? Was this his last message to me and 
his family, and had he really killed himself in 
some quiet place? During the rest of my stay 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 127 

nothing more was heard of the youth, but when I 
returned to Buenos Aires I was informed through 
niy friends of what young Amato had done after 
he had carved his feelings on the trunk of the tree. 
He had gone out on the ranch, where there were 
some mustangs grazing. These mustangs, as every- 
body knows, are beautiful and powerful creatures. 
They seem to be built of springs and are as fast 
as the wind. Like the lads in the household where 
I was staying, they were only half tamed, and when 
frightened they would gallop for hours without 
halting. Young Amato, it appears, went among 
his father's mustangs, and, instead of selecting his 
own habitual mount, chased and caught a young 
mustang as wild and spirited as himself. The beau- 
tiful animal, I was told, had not been broken in, 
but young Amato was careless of this fact. Im- 
mediately he had mounted, the mustang, in terror 
at the sensation of having something on his back, 
dashed away across country, over hills, across 
brooks and on to the plains. What actually hap- 
pened on that wild ride I do not know. But Asmato, 
famished through days of fasting, returned shortly 
after I left. He still rode the same mustang that 
had carried Mm away; but the beautiful animal 
was not the wild, frightened steed that had left 
the ranch it had come back conquered and docile. 
Whether Aimato, like his steed, had been tamed 
during his absence, I cannot say. Perhaps he had. 
Since then I have had no information as to the 
doings of that remarkable family, yet I shall al- 

128 My Life of Song 

ways treasure the beautiful dagger as a memento 
of that rather exciting week-end in the wilds of 
South America. 

Of all my recollections of South America, some 
grave, but mostly gay, the reflection that I was not 
subjected to any unpleasantness through jealousies 
in my own profession seems to me now to be the 
most pleasant of them all. When I arrived in 
South America there were no great prime donne 
there whose names had been on the lips of the 
multitude for many years and who could turn eyes 
of envy and jealousy in my direction. 

"You have come and conquered us all with your 
voice, " declared the President. " There are no 
others here on your plane." The Press and the 
public echoed the President's words. I was, how- 
ever, to have many experiences of what jealousy 
and spite will do during the next phase of my life 
of song. 

After spending a brief while with my relatives, 
now moved to Milan, I journeyed to Russia, where 
I had been offered a lucrative engagement. It was 
here that I first sang with my good friends Caruso, 
the great tenor Massini (now sixty years old), and 
Battistini, the baritone. Of these three famous 
singers I can only speak words of praise for their 
great art and of thanks for their kindness to me 
during my first visit to Russia. Caruso, I remem- 
ber, told me that I must prepare to come to Eng- 
land, where I should soon attain to international 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 129 

It was about this time that a then weU-lmown 
soprano who was singing at Petrograd made a 
thrust at me which, had it succeeded, would prob- 
ably have ruined my career as a prima donna. The 
opera in which we were playing was Les Hugue- 
nots, a composition which at the time it was written 
was not very favorably received, but has survived 
to be regarded as a Meyerbeer masterpiece. The 
part of Valentine, the heroine, was being sung, 
not by me, but by the prima donna to whom I have 
referred, whose name I advisedly suppress. I was 
engaged to sing tonly the smaller soprano parts. 

The criticisms of the performance published in 
the Press on the day succeeding the opening were 
remarkable. Very little was said of the singing 
of the prima donna, but much was written about 
my own performance. Most of the critics demand- 
ed to hear Tetrazzini in a more important part. 
Well, the only other important part was that of 
Valentine, sung by the prima donna. As can read- 
ily be understood, this artist did not feel very 
happy over the Press comments, and, as some 
other leading ladies have done in similar circumr 
stances, probably determined to "nip the ambitious 
understudy in the bud. ' ' I had been warned before 
leaving Italy to prepare for the consequences of 
jealous spite, as the lore of the musical profession, 
as well as of every other profession, contains 
numerous warning instances of fading stars show- 
ing acute hostility to new and promising lumi- 
naries. I know also that there are many great, 

130 My Life of Song 

lovable souls in all professions, including my own, 
who, instead of hampering through jealous hate 
the new stars, unselfishly give them a helping hand. 
I shall have more to tell of some of these, such as 
the great Patti, in a future chapter. 

When I met the diva the day succeeding the 
opening I could tell from the glare of her eyes and 
her frigid, almost contemptuous, demeanor that 
she was mortally offended with me, though my only 
offence was that I sang my best. Further, I had 
just returned from what was a triumphant four 
years of starring in South America, and was prob- 
ably entitled to special notice from the Russian 
. Press. But the jealous prima donna could not see 
someone whom she thought below her securing the 
praise to which she considered herself entitled. 
Perhaps she thought I would be asking the man- 
agement to transpose us. Certain it is that she 
took a step which she must have bitterly regretted 
ever afterward, for it probably was the first un- 
expected drop down the sharp descent which 
speedily brought her almost to poverty and want. 

The opera that was to have been given a few days 
subsequently was The Barber of Seville. As the 
real prima donna professed to be ailing, I was 
asked to practice the principal soprano part, which 
I did; and by the time the house was due to open 
I felt ready to sustain this role with ease. But at 
the last moment the real prima donna who was 
virtually the director of the house at the time- 
changed her mind. Without giving a satisfactory 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 131 

reason, she informed the company that, instead of 
giving The Barber of Seville, we were to produce 
Bigoletto that night. 

This news was a bombshell to me. It was now 
so long since I had sung Rigoletto that I had for- 
gotten most of this beautiful opera. There was no 
time to practice it, and the real prima donna still 
announced herself too ill to take the principal part. 
The newspaper critics had been invited, and so 
they were to hear me sing in a principal role for 
which I was totally unprepared. Even when I 
sang Isolde before my own Queen in Eome, Her 
Majesty had thoughtfully sent her own maestro 
to coach me and had given me time to learn the 
part Here, in Petrograd, it was a different task 
that was set me. What was the explanation of this 
sinister situation? There could only be one solu- 
tion, I told myself: it was a plot by the principal 
soprano to make me appear to the greatest possible 
disadvantage before the important personages and 
the musical critics of the Eussian capital* What 
was more reasonable than the assumption that 
after this appearance it would be said that I was 
not a great prima donna, and only capable of filling 
lesser roles in grand opera? Briefly I discussed 
the situation with Battistini and Massini. I told 
them I was not prepared to take the part in these 
unexpected circumstances, but they both advised 
me to make the effort. 

"You keep your nerve and you will come through 
with honors. And we will help you," they declared. 

132 My Life of Song 

As they spoke I felt my spirits rise, as they have 
often done in circumstances in which I have felt 
someone has been treating me or a friend unfairly. 

"I will sing Bigoletto tonight, and sing it to the 
satisfaction of all," I said to myself, "or I will 
never sing again. " 

The curtain went up on a fashionable and 
crowded house. The St Petersburg of those days 
was very different from the drab, shopless, suffer- 
ing Petrograd it now is. Jewels were flashing in 
the boxes and stalls. Tall, bearded Eussians, now 
dead or begging for charity in the streets, sat with 
their ladies and languidly discussed the opera, none 
dreaming of the terrible days of terror and hunger 
ahead. I often think of that imposing scene when 
I read of the Russia of today, and I shudder as 
there rushes to my mind some horrible picture of 
the probable present of this applauding prince who 
sat there that night, or that beautiful young 
princess, bright of eye, vivacious in manner, who 
was by his side. 

Battistini took the part of Rigoletto, the bari- 
tone; Massini was the tenor, Duke of Mantua; 
while I was the soprano heroine, Gilda, Bigoletto 's 
daughter. I record it with gratitude that both 
Massini and Battistini seented to be as genuinely 
eager for my success that night as I was. 

Particularly in the great soprano aria, "Dearest 
Name," was this desire for my unqualified success 
shown by Massini. This aria, which I have sung 
for recording and which, by the way, is one of the 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 133 

best sellers of my phonograph records, is supposed 
to be sung while in an ecstasy of love. In it the 
Duke's name is sung aloud, the singer declaring 
that it is forever graven on her heart. While this 
aria is being sung the Duke should not appear on 
the stage. So anxious for me, however, was Mas- 
sini who knew that if I could produce all the 
notes of this great aria the success of the rest of 
the opera was assured that he decided not to go 
off the stage. Instead, he secreted himself behind 
a tree and, thinking to help me, whispered encour- 
agingly as I proceeded with the song. When I 
realized what Massini was doing for me a wave of 
gratitude for the veteran tenor swept through mfc 
and probably helped me to sing better than was my 
custom. I have thought since that I was fortunate 
in singing this aria so well in those circumstances, 
as an incident of that kind might, on another occa- 
sion, have distracted instead of assisted me. 

There was an amusing scene at the end of the 
aria, for Massini, despite his long years of opera 
singing, for once seemed to have completely forgot- 
ten that he was on the stage and not in the stalls. 
No sooner had I finished than he rushed out from 
behind his tree-screen shouting, " Bravo, bravo, 
Tetrazzini!" and so led the audience in the crash 
of applause which followed. It was just the kind 
of unrehearsed action that one might have expected 
of the big-hearted Massini. The audience was 
swift in recognizing the Duke and the motive which 
inspired him, and I like to think that much of the 

134 My Life of Song 

applause which followed was meant as much for 
the kindly Massini as for myself. 

As Massini and Battistini had foreshadowed, the 
opera went with a great swing. Each of us forgot 
many of the words, but our improvisations passed 
unnoticed. The curtain finally fell between us and 
a house more than satisfied with our performance. 
As my readers will have imagined, there were two 
very eager scrutinizings of the Petrograd Press the 
next morning: the prima donna who had decreed 
that we were to play Eigoletto without a rehearsal, 
and myself. I was not in her presence when she 
read the critics' comments, but I can readily im- 
agine what her thoughts were as she did so, for 
the writers had eulogized my performance in the 
same lavish language as had done the journalists 
of South America during the past few years, and 
almost to the same extent as did the English and 
New York writers a few years later. 

As for that diva, the opera house saw her no 
more. Without a word of " Good-bye " she packed 
her boxes and left, giving me a field free from 
interference and jealousy in high places. And so 
the experience, which was at first unpleasant, had 
worked out to my complete satisfaction. The real 
sufferer it seemed a case of poetic justice was 
the jealous prima donna. So far as I remember 
she never again appeared as a great diva in any 
of the world's capitals. 

For a time I felt very bitter over her unjustifi- 
able attitude toward me, but when I heard, as I 

A Wild Lover and a Jealous Diva 135 

eventually did, that misfortune liad befallen her, 
I felt truly sorry. It is, I suppose, only human to 
feel hurt and to be envious of one's supplanter, 
however innocent that supplanter may be. There 
is a tale in English history of a king who was 
greatly hurt and indignant when he saw his eldest 
son trying on the royal crown a story which was 
recalled to my mind by this incident. 

After my experience in Petrograd and elsewhere 
of the jealousies of the profession, I do not think 
I could ever be guilty of doing other than give a 
kindly word or a little help to anyone who seems 
to have a fair chance of filling my place when I 
retire. I am glad to be able to record that I have 
since seen the prima donna of whom I have been 
writing. I was then able to turn the other cheek, 
and am very pleased that I did so. I was singing 
in one of the world capitals I will not mention 
where, as it is my purpose not to disclose her 
identity when I heard that she was in unfavorable 
circumstances. I wrote to her a pleasant letter, 
and received a very cordial reply. Later on I sent 
her seats for my own private box, which she ac- 
cepted. When I was singing that evening this diva 
was one of the most enthusiastic of my auditors. 
Before leaving she kissed her hand to me from 
the box. 



DURING all these travels there was ever prom- 
inent in my mind, as in the mind of every 
singer or player, the desire to appear before 
large audiences in London and New York. I knew 
that it was only after conquering one or both of 
these two great cities that I could hope to attain 
to international fame. Yet I was doing nothing to 
hasten forward the time for making my bow to 
either city. 

Caruso, as I have mentioned, urged me to go 
from Russia straight to London, and he confidently 
predicted a great triumph. Other renowned artists 
from! time to time gave me similar advice and 
also expressed their confidence in the result* True, 
some opportunities did present themselves, but the 
offers were not sufficiently attractive to induce me 
away from South America, Mexico, Russia, Spain, 
Germany or Austria, where I was singing for 
more than a decade before I made my first bow to 

When I was singing in Mexico, where I spent 
five, seasons, some of the friends I made would ask 
me about my experiences in London and New 
York, and when I replied that I had not sung in 


Conquest of Mexico 137 

either city they would say: "Don't you think you 
are making a great mistake in coming here before 
you have been to London? The great Patti did 
not visit us until long after she had become famous 
in England and New York/ 7 

I understood what they meant, and I knew full 
well the difference between an English and an 
American audience that while a singer coming to 
America with a great reputation from Britain 
might be assured of success, the prosp,ects in Eng- 
land of a singer with only a South American rep- 
utation were by no means so rosy. England in 
those days was reputed to be much more critical 
of singers than the New World, and always scep- 
tical of any of tjie many "finds" which America at 
one time was frequently announcing. One of the 
reasons probably was what England described as 
"the Barnum method" of booming the singers 
"discovered" in the New World. 

I remtember replying to one of my advisers that, 
despite the English prejudice against American 
finds, London had accepted Patti then a girl in 
her 'teens immediately upon her arrival from 
America. What Patti had done I felt, although I 
did not say so, might be done again. In those days 
I did not, of course, foresee the amazing scenes 
which were to follow my debut in London or their 
remarkable resemblance to those aroused by the 
first visit of the "little lady" who was soon after- 
ward the great Patti. 

As I moved about Mexico during those five 

138 My Life of Song 

seasons I heard many echoes of Patti 's visit. It 
was in Mexico City that I was first told the story 
of how Patti came to the border of Mexico and 
then turned back in fright. She was then a girl 
prodigy touring North America, nightly holding 
audiences spellbound as, standing on a table, she 
sang to them with a voice of rare beauty. As she 
was nearing Mexico she heard stories of brigands 
robbing concert parties, and little Patti, not yet 
ten years of age, resolutely declined to be taken 
into the fearsome country. As I heard moving 
tale after moving tale of the modern doings in 
this oft-troubled country, I could not help saying 
to the Mexican people that I endorsed the action 
of little Patti, and I added that if I had been a 
little girl singing my way through North America 
I should have done the same. 

I heard many accounts of the days when Patti 
then the most famous singer in the world, and 
deservedly so visited Mexico City. It was about 
the timie when I was making my sensational little 
debut in Florence. I heard the Mexicans talking 
of the magnificence of the railway car in which 
Patti travelled, which bore her name in huge let- 
ters on the outside and which was stared at with 
wondering eyes by all the country people as the 
train came through from Texas. In subsequent 
years I took a leaf from Patti 's book in the mat- 
ter of railway travel, as I found that a sumptuous 
railway car on which could be cooked the meals I 
liked best, and on which I could sleep, rehearse 

Conquest of Mexico 139 

and be free from intrusion, was better far than 
hotel life with its occasional comforts and frequent 
discomforts, disturbances and petty annoyances. 
When, subsequently, London suggested that in 
Tetrazzini a new Patti had been found, London 
probably thought it was saying something new. 
Yet here in Mexico, several years before London 
first saw me, I was being generally described as 
the "Florentine Nightingale" and the "new 
Patti. " The houses attracted by Patti the god- 
dess before whose shrine I worshipped were be- 
ing compared with the houses to which I was now 
singing in Mexico City. The dresses and the dia- 
monds, the money paid for the boxes, the crowds 
unable to obtain admission, the number of beau- 
tiful women in the stalls, the tempestuous ap- 
plause, the wonderful gifts of flowers, and the 
electrical atmosphere of the opera house all 
were compared with the scenes of the days of Patti. 
Yet though the Press and the public were lavish in 
their praise, though my seasons were called "The 
New Conquest of Mexico," I realized all the time 
that there was a difference between my appear- 
ances in this country and those of Patti. I knew 
that, despite the pleasure I gave the Mexicans 
through my singing, they were susceptible as all 
small countries are to the opinion of the great 
nations, and especially to the authoritative voice 
of New York or London; and I felt then that, 
enjoyable though these American tours were to me, 
I must soon turn my face in the direction of Covent 

140 My Life of Song 

Garden, and if a suitable opportunity did not pre- 
sent itself I must, like the Eoman of old, "find a 
way to make it." 

Meanwhile, from season to season, Mexico was 
providing me with many interesting experiences 
as well as with large sums of money. It is not my 
intention in these reminiscences to devote long de- 
scriptions to the brilliant houses that have collected 
to hear the Tetrazzini voice, or to tedious accounts 
of the roles in which I appeared, or to relate in 
chronological order all my doings in the Mexican 
Republic. I have never kept a diary, and am un- 
able to remediber enough to set down seriatim, even 
if such would interest my readers, my experiences 
in this picturesque State. As I have suggested 
already, my welcome in Mexico was exceptional. 
It corresponded very much with the generous treat- 
ment accorded by the South American Republics. 

As in Argentina, so in Mexico, the President 
was enraptured with my singing and expressed Ms 
pleasure in many ways. Mexico's head was, by the 
way, the famous and capable despot, President 
Diaz, who with his wife became very frequent 
visitors at the opera. The President showed me 
many kindnesses. Whenever I recall Mm there 
leaps simultaneously to my mind the remembrance 
of a very comical figure, a little gnome-like fellow 
(the President's aide-de-camp), who always fol- 
lowed his chief wherever he went. 

This little man was known as the " General, " 
and he used to salute me in a funny little way when- 

Conquest of Mexico 

ever lie came near. Every time I saw MT^I make 
tMs salute I always felt an almost irresistible de- 
sire to laugh. I remember on one occasion when 
the President and Ms wife were in the presidential 
box, and I was on the stage singing, that my eyes 
suddenly alighted on the "General." He, seeing 
me regarding him, must needs involuntarily bring 
his hand to the salute, whereat I had to pause in 
my aria and laugh. The audience, including the 
President, though they did not know the reason, 
joined me in this little episode. After the opera 
was over I spoke to the President and explained 
the reason, whereat he exclaimed: "Oh, it was the 
'General'! He makes everyone laugh. But they 
all like him, and he is my mascot. If anything 
were to happen to him I should be daily expecting 
a disaster to myself. " When I heard the news of 
the revolution and the President's flight, I recalled 
this conversation, and I wondered what had hap- 
pened to the "General" after I left. But I never 

I noticed that the President's countenance was 
very dark, and his features suggested that there 
was Indian blood in his veins. At that time he was 
well advanced in years. His wife, on the other 
hand, was a graceful Frenchwoman, a miember of 
one of the most aristocratic families, and some 
twenty years the junibn of her exalted husband. 
Her Christian name was Carmen. She sent me a 
lovely photograph of herself, which I still have 
in my collection of autographed portraits of celeb- 

142 My Life of Song 

rities. Carmen Diaz used sometimes to come alone 
to the theatre when the President was very busy. 
On those occasions she would select the proscenium 
box, a box which in Latin countries is invariably 
covered by a grille, so that the occupant can see 
without being seen. On one occasion I remember, 
before the curMn rose, the Presidentess was so 
interested in the head-dress I was wearing she 
had seen me through the grille that she raised 
the screen and asked me to come over so that she 
might inspect it more closely. 

Mexico City and the Mexicans charmed me. As 
is well known, the city is nearly eight thousand feet 
above sea-level, and the atmosphere is very rare 
and invigorating. Though cold at night, it is very 
warm during the day, and the sun seems to shine 
always. I thought the Mexicans peculiar in some 
ways. They seem to leave their big business to 
the Americans, having either no initiative or no 
business acumen. The women, and indeed many 
of the men, of the city seem to love most the occu- 
pation of watching the picturesque life of the 
streets ; and picturesque is the only word in which 
to describe the moving throng, particularly on Sun- 
day evenings, when everyone- in Mexico City seems 
to be parading the two principal streets of the 
capital, all intent on seeing and being seen in their 
invariably striking costumes of divers colors. 

Though there is always a palpable undercurrent 
of deep political feeling everyone lives in expecta- 
tion of outbreaks of rioting or civil war or assassi- 

Conquest of Mexico 143 

nations the Mexicans show a great zest in life, 
and the men particularly are very ready to go 
crazy over exceptional singing or playing. I no- 
ticed that the men usually applauded anything and 
everything I sang; but the Mexican women, al- 
though very enthusiastic when I met them off the 
stage, like my own countrywomen, do not regard 
it as becoming to applaud in the theatre. I could 
tell, however, from the applause of some that they 
had travelled in the United States and had ac- 
quired the custom from their Anglo-Saxon sisters. 

Upon leaving the theatre I found in many Mexi- 
can towns groups of men awaiting me at the stage 
door. As I appeared they doffed their hats, and 
some of them removed their coats and, following 
an old Spanish custom, and one which Sir "Walter 
Ealeigh attempted on a notable occasion to intro- 
duce into England, cast them on the ground for 
me to walk on. As I saw this I felt suddenly trans- 
ported back to the days of old Spain, when men 
vied with each other in the practices of chivalry 
and knight-errantry. 

An incident which occurred when I was at Pue- 
bla was in strong contrast with the foregoing. The 
opera house I have sung in some strange edifices, 
all boldly arrogating to themselves the name of 
opera house was a sorry structure. The memory 
of it haunts me still. Sometimes I dream that I 
aan singing in it, and wake up with a gasp of 
horror. There had been something very much the 
matter with the roof just before we arrived, for 

144 My Life of Song 

when the time came to raise the curtain we found 
to our disgust, which was vigorously expressed by 
every member of the ocmpany, that the stage was 
awash ! At first we felt like abandoning the per- 
formance, but the manager besought us to appear. 
There was a full house, he argued, and he would 
have to hand back all the money, which, he said, 
was badly needed. The other members of my com- 
pany wavered and then, they too not relishing the 
loss of a night's pay, took the manager's side. So 
I consented. 

The water was baled off the stage as quickly as 
possible, but the roof still dripped so badly that 
the boards were very wet in places when, a little 
later, the curtain went up. The opera was my old 
favorite, Lucia, and not wishing to ruin the ex- 
pensive long-train gown which I wore in this work, 
I held it up as I sang, at the same time trying to 
find one or two dry islands in the stage sea. Per- 
haps it would have been better to have taken the 
public into our confidence although, being natives, 
they ought to have known the state of their theatre 
before we started playing, for some of the aristo- 
cratic ladies of Puebla, when they saw me holding 
my skirt aloft, made motions which revealed how 
deeply I had shocked them. 

One lady in particular, seated in a box slightly 
lower than the stage, where she was unable to ob- 
serve the reason of my behavior, looked frightfully 
indignant. She frowned, and then ostentatiously 
turned herself away from me and faced the audi* 

Conquest of Mexico 145 

ence, saying in effect, ' ' Just fancy ! A prima donna 
attempting to emulate a high-kicking ballet girl!" 
That action of hers and what it implied was too 
much for me. I decided to help her to clear away 
a few cobwebs. With my feet fairly soaking and 
the consciousness that, despite my great efforts, 
my dress was practically spoiled, I did not feel in 
the happiest mood, so when a suitable opportunity 
canue I interpolated a few phrases of my own into 
the libretto of the unfortunate Lucia. Advancing 
gingerly, island by island, across the watery stage, 
I reached the nearest point to where sat the lady 
with her back to me. Then I sang, " Madam, you 
are shocked, very shocked, I know it, yes I do. 
But do you know, the stage is soaking wet, and 
our dresses all are spoiling, yet just to please you 
I am ready, perfectly ready 2 to let my dress drag 
through the wet and be completely ruined if you, 
dear madam, will promise to buy me a lovely new 


My little imipromptu serenade did not have the 
happy result that should have followed. Some of 
those near by heard what I sang, and laughed; 
their laughter further oftended the dignity of the 
great local dame in the box. She still sat with her 
back to me during the rest of the act, and when that 
was over she gathered up her wraps and haughtily 
stalked out to the quiet amusement of others near 
by and to myself, who happened to be in a position 
of observation behind the curtain. On reflection I 
think the action of the grande dame was indef en- 

146 My Life of Song 

sible, as to pretend to be shocked at a diva who was 
only trying to protect a new and very beautiful 
dress was unquestionably an insult. But that was 
only one of the little discordant notes which are 
heard in every sphere of life, and I must admit 
now to many happy smiles when recalling the in- 
cident and my rather daring improvisation. 

Every artist has many stories to tell of little 
encounters of this nature during his or her profes- 
sional life, and many an interesting hour have I 
spent in the green-room of a theatre listening to 
one or other of the great singers recounting some 
such experience. This story I once published in an 
article entitled "My Conquest of Mexico," which 
appeared in an American magazine. That maga- 
zine was read in the town in which the incident 
occurred, and it brought me one or two very sympa- 
thetic letters from persons who were present on 
the night in question, each of whom thanked me 
for appearing in such uninviting circumstances. 
But there was no letter f rojn the lady whom I had 
so mortally offended. 

Another unpleasant experience occurred when I 
was in Mexico, the land of sunshine and apparent 
happiness. There was introduced to me a man who 
recalled having met me in Buenos Aires. I had 
almost forgotten him, but later I recollected having 
met him at some Government function many years 
before. He was a tall, handsome, magnetic man, 
middle-aged, very polished, and with plenty of as- 
surance. He said that for a time he had been the 

Conquest of Mexico 147 

Argentine consul in the town. As lie happened 
to know other members of my company as well as 
some of my friends, I saw him on a number of 
occasions. One day he made a proposition to me 
whereby I was to save money. He said that, as 
he was still connected with the Government, he 
could have my earnings transferred from Mexico 
to Italy, or to whatever place I chose, without my 
having to lose so much on the exchanges and the 
postages. I looked at him very sharply as he made 
this proposal to me, as the unpleasant thought 
that he was trying to rob me passed through my 
mind ; but I believed differently immediately. His 
blue eyes looked so honest and innocent that I felt 
he must be the soul of honor. Nevertheless, I did 
not agree to his proposal, but told him I was quite 
satisfied with the -way my money was handled at 
the present, and I saw no reason for changing. 

"But you can save money, and it will be safer 
if you do it through the Government," he urged, 
rather too eagerly I thought. When he saw I was 
determined not to entrust him with my money, he 
dropped the suggestion without showing any sign 
of annoyance. Later, other members of my com- 
pany were approached by him in the same way, 
and as their earnings were not comparable with 
mine, and they were naturally very anxious to save 
as much money as possible, they consented and 
entrusted him with the work of transference. I 
heard subsequently that their monies were received 
safely at their destinations and that the ex-consul 

148 My Life of Song 

had actually justified Ms claim to be able to save 
them money. I did not suspect that this was part 
of his scheme to defraud me. 

Then came the time when I wished to have sent 
to my dressmaker in payment of bills a sum of 
27,000 francs (normally $5,000), and being very 
pressed with other business at the moment, I en- 
trusted the transference to the handsome ex-consul. 
Time passed, and the receipt and the answer to 
my letter to the dressmaker had not arrived. I 
began to grow very nervous. I saw my Adonis- 
like " benefactor" and asked him if there had been 
any hitch in the Government toffice, but he blandly 
assured mfe that the money had gone through quite 
all right, that I should get my acknowledgment in 
due course, said that I was not to worry, and that 
he was quite ready to oblige me in a similar way 
again. But my fears were not so easily allayed. 
I wrote to my dressmaker and asked her to reply 
immediately and state whether she had received 
those 27,000 francs which I had sent her. As for 
the ex-consul, I told him that I was very agitated 
at not getting a response to my letter, and that I 
had no intention at the moment of enlisting his aid 
in any further financial dealings of mine. With 
that he left me, and I did not see him again for 
some time. 

During this period I looked eagerly in my mail 
for a letter from my dressmaker, but still there 
was no answer. Then one day I happened to be at 
the consulate when the post arrived, and an official 

Conquest of Mexico 149 

handed me a letter. It was tlie one from my dress- 
maker in answer to my second note. It stated that 
she had not received the first letter containing 
the 27,000 francs. This news alarmed me, and I 
went straight to a solicitor and told him what had 
happened. The police were called in, and they soon 
recognized in the ex-consul a man who was an asso- 
ciate of a very well-known gang of expert crim- 
inals. They also discovered that for a time, while 
he was still hoping to "be entrusted with some more 
of my money, he had made it a daily practice to 
call for my foreign mail so as to prevent my hear- 
ing from my dressmaker. The police were very 
soon on his track, and not long afterward he was 
arrested. They found him in a very fashionable 
restaurant entertaining a well-dressed woman in 
lavish fashion. They had ordered the most expen- 
sive viands procurable and a plentiful supply of 
the best champagne all at my expense! 

In the courts the ex-consul told an amazing tale. 
He overlooked the fact that he had first met me in 
Buenos Aires, and solemnly announced to the court 
that he had found me in London, where I was then 
an unknown singer. Having discovered that I was 
a musical genius, that I had a voice which would 
become famous in both hemispheres, he had decided 
to spend all his savings in order to bring me to the 
front. I forget how much he mentioned in this 
preposterous story. Anyway, it was far in excess 
of the sum that he had taken from me. And the 
reason why he had stolen this 27,000 francs, he 

150 My Life of Song 

said, was that I, now siiccessf ul, had forgotten com- 
pletely my obligations to Mm- and was careless of 
the fact that it was to him alone I owed all my 
triumphs and material prosperity. He told the 
court how he had asked me to repay him only a 
little of the money that he had expended in raising 
me to my pedestal, but that I had haughtily re- 
fused. It was then that the idea had entered his 
mind to recover the money by subterfuge. My 
astonishment at his audacious tale may be readily 
imagined. No credence whatever was given to his 
story by the judg$, who sentenced him to if I 
rememjber rightly seven months' imprisonment. 

The 27,000 francs were not recovered for me, but 
I was lucky to have escaped with no heavier losses. 
Before that time and since attempts, mostly unsuc- 
cessful, to secure some of my earnings were made 
by unscrupulous persons who, particularly in 
North and South America, have an unpleasant 
habit of popping up on the most unexpected occa- 
sions. I shall have more to say in. a later chapter 
as to my strange experiences and fortunate escapes 
from some of these unpleasant persons. 

Of those five seasons during which I was singing 
in Mexico, all were financially successful. To those 
unacquainted with the country this may not seem 
surprising, but to the experienced it is regarded as 
phenomenal. Very few singers finish' a season in 
Mexico, for several reasons. One is that the clim- 
ate, which in Mexico City is very delightful, is by 
no means as propitious throughout the Republic. 

Conquest of Mexico 151 

The altitudes range from a little above sea-level to 
nearly nine thousand feet, with consequent varia- 
tions of temperature and comfort. But it is not 
only the climate that adversely affects the opera 
company. There are many other detrimental influ- 
ences. The country is poor, and high-priced sing- 
ers seldom attract enough money to the box-office 
to make the season profitable to the manager. As 
I have already pointed out, the Mexicans will rave 
over a good singer and are never indifferent to 
opera. Yet the expenses of a touring company are 
so enormous, the cost of transportation is so great, 
and the hotel charges are so frequently in the 
opposite ratio to the accommodation supplied that 
it becomes almost impossible for an ordinary com- 
pany to pay its way. 

The hotel-keepers will show you a room as cheer- 
less and uninviting as a prison cell, divided from 
the others by so thin a partition that you can 
hear every word spoken several rooms away, and 
will demand payment at as high rates or higher 
than those asked in New York or in the first-class 
hotels in London. At one hotel, for instance, I was 
charged six Mexican dollars (about three Ameri- 
can) for a plate of cold meat. All other charges 
to me were proportionate, although I knew from 
the other, but native, visitors that they were eating 
excellent table d'hote luncheons or dinners for 
about 85 cents a meal. I remonstrated with the 
hotel proprietor, who replied that the charges to 
me were the same as he made to all tourists; and 

152 My Life of Song 

when I pointed out that there were others staying 
in the hotel who were having equal accommodation 
for about one-third the charges, he advanced the 
rather impudent argument that as I was taking 
from the town a lot of money in salary, for singing, 
it was up to him to get some of it back. He further 
argued that, since I was doubtless ever ready to 
take the highest salary I could demand, I should 
not blame him for doing the same for his accom- 
modation, to which I might have retorted that 
many people thought that my voice justified an 
unusual fee, but that he was providing less than 
ordinary comforts for extraordinary charges. Un- 
fortunately, there was no rival hotel in the town 
to which I could go, a circumstance of which my 
ungallant host was thoroughly cognizant when I 
made my protest. 

Another drawback to profitable opera in Mexico 
is the long list of people who expect Press cour- 
tesies. Even in the smaller towns which can barely 
support one daily and one evening newspaper, I 
found to my amazement the names of sometimes 
as many as seventy journalists on the roll for free 
tickets. These journalists claimed to be the corre- 
spondents of newspapers published all over the 
globe, from China to Peru, from Christiania to 
Queensland. To my practical mind I could see no 
advantage to me or to my company to fill the opera 
house in this way, particularly when it mfeant the 
exclusion of some sixty or seventy persons who 
were prepared to pay full prices for the stalls so 

Conquest of Mexico 153 

occupied. It was quite clear to me that these 
alleged journalists never corresponded with the 
newspapers they professed to represent, and that 
even if they were the recognized correspondents 
they were not expected to write on any subject of 
less general importance than the assassination of 
the President, the burning of the House of Parlia- 
ment, or a revolution. 

What annoyed me and many others who have 
preceded and succeeded me in my Mexican tours 
was the discovery that these pseudo-journalists ac- 
tually used to make money out of the privilege they 
held. For they appeared in their places during the 
first act, then would disappear and their seats be 
occupied by strangers who had paid their prede- 
cessors for the privilege of using their ticket-stubs. 
There exists at the Royal Albert Hall, London, a 
privilege embarrassing to artists and impresarios, 
whereby nearly a thousand people may be present 
without payment every time the hall is open. These 
are not the journalists, but, so I ami informed, 
those, or their heirs, who at the time when the hall 
was built Were given seats in perpetuity by con- 
tributing generously to the scheme. Now everyone 
who would sing or play to the people of London at 
the Eoyal Albert Hall has to give his or her serv- 
ices free to nearly one-tenth of the total accom- 
modation. To me that seems an unfortunate state 
of affairs; still when we take the hall, we know 
that this is one of the provisions and accept it ac- 
cordingly. But when we are in Mexico and find 

154: My Life of Song 

the pseudo- journalists swarming into all tlie best 
seats, and then selling them to their friends and 
preventing the company from getting the return 
for their work to which they are entitled, artists 
may be excused for protesting. 

However, on the other hand, I have had so much 
kindness and assistance shown to me by genuine 
journalists in other countries, particularly in 
America and England, that I would like to say 
that what is common in Mexico is certainly un- 
common elsewhere. Probably I have met and 
talked with at least as many journalists as any 
other living singer, and I have nothing but kindly 
memories for the great majority of these hard- 
worked members of a very noble and useful pro- 



MY travels in Mexico were not destined to end 
without my experiencing the disagreeable 
sensation of being attached to an opera 
company left stranded by its impresario. Not that 
this experience is at all novel for a professional 
singer. In Mexico and in some of the South Amer- 
ican States it used to be the exception for an im- 
presario to return from a tour with his own com- 

I have already written of my experience as a 
diva-impresario in Argentina, and told of the mis- 
fortunes so frequently suffered by operatic artists 
on tour. In Mexico the impresario and Ms artists 
frequently part before a quarter of the tour is 
completed. Impresarios in this State are not men 
of much substance: a few poor houses, due, per- 
haps, to feeble advertising or clashing^ with other 
and unexpected events of strong local interest, and 
the impresario finds himself on pay-day with no 
funds. If he is a brave man he calls his company 
together and explains to them the bleak situation. 
If the company is wise and does not show too much 
primitive human nature, a working arrangement 
is effected and the company struggles on. A few 


156 My Life of Song 

good houses may put matters right. But if the 
impresario, instead of bravely facing the situation, 
acts the coward and disappears with what money 
there is, then the lot of the company is desperate. 

It was one of the cowardly type of impresarios 
who ran my company into the Mexican wilds on one 
occasion. He had agreed to pay me a salary which, 
he said afterward, was too high to allow of the 
tour's being financially successful; the salaries 
which he had promised to pay the other artists 
were also correspondingly high. As an impresario 
he was not a success. The towns we visited under 
him did not know of our coming until we arrived. 
We sang on the wrong days, and it was not until 
we were leaving that the inhabitants were fully 
awakened to the fact that Tetrazzini and her com- 
pany, who had caused such a furore in South 
America and in their capital, Mexico City, and who 
had stirred and pleased the great dictator Diaz 
and his wife, were actually among them; and so 
the last night's takings were usually equal to those 
of all the preceding performances* 

It was clear to me and the whole company that 
there was something wrong with the business side 
of our tour. I called the impresario aside and 
remonstrated with him concerning the arrange- 
ments. He was looking very pale and worried and 
promised that he would wire to his advance agent 
to improve matters. But I was not satisfied with 
his reply; there was a suspicious droop of the eyes 
which suggested to me that all was not well with 

A Runaway Impresario 157 

him, and that there was trouble coming for all of 
us. My fears were quickly realized. That night 
our farewell we played to a full house. During 
the interval we were to collect our pay. As we 
waited and chatted behind the scenes someone 
raised the query as to the whereabouts of our 
principal. A search was made, but he could not be 
found. An anxious look came into every face as 
the "minutes passed and no impresario appeared. 
Everyone was thinking the same thing, although 
so far no one had expressed his fears in words. 
It was a very long interval that night, and there 
was much noisy clamoring before the curtain rose 
on the last act. 

But there was no impresario behind the scenes 
or in front of the house when that curtain ascended. 
He had entered the last train which left the town 
that night for Mexico City. With him were the 
company's share of the takings of the box-office 
and, incidentally, the money due to us. As all 
artists who have had a similar experience and as 
every one of my readers will thoroughly appreci- 
ate, it was a very apprehensive and white-faced 
group of singers which assembled in the green- 
room at the back of the stage in that out-of-the-way 
Mexican city at the close of the performance. 
" Let's call in the police," was the advice of one, 
while another was for immediately breaking up the 
company and returning to the capital in search of 
the renegade employer. He accompanied the re- 
mark with such vigorous threats as to the way he 

158 My Life of Song 

would handle him, as to make both the contralto 
and myself shudder. 

During the discussion, some of the artists dis- 
closed their financial condition, and I think it was 
the sorry state in which the majority were that 
prompted me to make my suggestion. There were 
among us several women whose total possessions 
did not amount to ten Mexican dollars, which, at 
the rate they were charging us for hotel accommo- 
dation on that tour, would have maintained them 
for about twenty-four hours. "While the men 
stormed, one or two of the younger women were 
openly weeping. 

Then I made my proposal. I told the company 
of my experiences in South America as a diva- 
impresario, of the success which had attended my 
efforts, and expressed the opinion that what I had 
done in the Southern half of this great New World 
I could repeat in the Northern part. I had enough 
money with me to pay the expenses of the company 
for the next week, and I told them if it were neces- 
sary I would get some more wired to me from my 
own reserves in Mexico City. With this I offered 
to pay the whole of the expenses of the next week 
or two of the tour, including the full salaries of 
all the artists. Further, I proposed to take charge 
of all the receipts, as well as to make myself re- 
sponsible for meeting every legitimate charge. If 
at the end of the tour there were money in hand, 
I was to take from, that sum the amount of my 
own salary, according to the rate at which I was 

A Runaway Impresario 159 

to have been paid by our missing impresario, and 
then, if there were still money remaining, I sug- 
gested that we should make an equal division among 
us all. As I talked and unfolded my plan, I noticed, 
subconsciously, that the women dried their tears 
and looked at me with eyes in which hope and eag- 
erness had taken the place of disappointment and 
despair. The tenor and the baritone ceased to utter 
imprecations against the missing impresario and 
eagerly offered to try it. Before the conference 
ended one or two women, who but half an hour 
before were wringing their hands, were discussing 
the amount that there would be left over for the 
final share-out Hope springs eternal in the human 
breast. Anyway, the whole company readily agreed 
to my proposal and gave me full authority to act 
in their name. 

1 had already sufficient experience of the world 
to know that human nature will readily enthuse at 
the inception of an enterprise, but is apt very soon 
to grow weary and lazy. So I took good care to 
watch over every side of the company's activities. 
I insisted on plenty of rehearsals, with the result 
that the standard of our company was higher at 
the end of our tour than the beginning. So that 
there should be no " unfortunate occurrences" in 
the region of our little treasury, I kept a very close 
watch on the dollars that came in and were paid 
out; It was a very exacting tour for me. It meant 
that hours before the curtain went up I was seated 
in the little office watching and checking the tak- 

160 My Life of Song 

ings and assuring myself that my company was not 
being cheated. I was all the more caref ul as to the 
box-office takings because on a previous tour I was 
flagrantly robbed. 

My manager on that tour had an excellent eye 
for " counting the house." On one occasion when 
the box-office returns were handed him, he saw 
immediately that there was a big discrepancy be- 
tween them and the numbers in the house. Yet 
apparently everything was correct. The returns 
revealed that so many tickets had been sold and 
the money for these handed over, that so many 
courtesy tickets had been issued and the bunch of 
unsold tickets seemed to make the figures of the 
returns square exactly with the known seating 
capacity of the building. Still my manager, who 
knew Mexico and the Mexicans' tolerance of graft 
and trickery full well, was dissatisfied. He told 
me of his fears, and I, too, felt rather than knew 
that he was right. We decided to go thoroughly 
into the matter, but knowing thejaractices of the 
country, elected to work secrlyfip* "We engaged 
some private detectives, who sodn discovered that 
there was one set of tickets of which we knew 
nothing. Money was taken for these, but no re- 
turns were made. They differed only slightly in 
appearance from the authorized tickets. Yet the 
doorkeeper knew them and had instructions to pass 
their holders through into the theatre. Thus a box 
reported to us to be empty was found to be filled 
with persons admitted on the forged tickets. 

A Runaway Impresario 161 

When we discovered what was happening we 
acquainted the police, and three persons were ar- 
rested on the following evening. What still amazes 
me is that we were able to expose the plot without 
the organizers' realizing what we were doing. For 
on the day when it was my manager's duty to press 
the charges, it was found, to our astonishment, 
that the greatest offender of all was the son of the 
Chief of Police, with whom the business negotia- 
tions for leasing the theatre had been concluded. 

How many companies who had preceded us had 
been cheated in this way no one outside the clique 
knows. The practice might have been in operation 
for years and still be in vogue but for the sharp 
eyes of my manager. I must confess that I was 
not surprised at the discovery, or at the fact that 
the son of the official who ought to have been the 
farthest removed from suspicion was the chief 
offender. For on every hand in Mexico one heard 
tales of graft and financial trickery in high places. 
Everyone had a story to tell of a Government con- 
tractor who submitted two bills for work done or 
goods supplied, one for the amount he was to 
receive, and one for a very much larger amount 
which would figure in the public records, of which 
he would only receive the agreed sum, the differ- 
ence between the two being pocketed by the Gov- 
ernment official who handed out the contract. 

It was because of this experience that I was the 
more careful over the box-office returns during this 
tour in which I played the dual r61e of diva- 

162 My Life of Song 

impresario. There were no attempts to defraud 
us on the same scale as the one I have just nar- 
rated, and our tour went swimmingly. It was not 
long before I found myself able to pay all expenses 
out of receipts. Having passed that stage I de- 
termined to work my hardest to make this the most 
successful tour, so that if ever I saw my impresario 
again I could tell him, besides other things, what 
he had lost through his cowardice. There was 
soon money to spare for advertising; after which 
there was no performance at which the house was 
not packed. I have forgotten the exact amount 
of the spoils of that tour which we divided when 
the curtain dropped for the last time, but it was 
a very considerable sum, so big that every member 
of the company begged me, before we broke up, 
to take him (or her) on any subsequent tour in 
which I again played the dual role of prima donna 
and impresario. 

I had one very formidable and unexpected en- 
counter on that particular tour which I shall 
always remember. As those who know Mexico are 
aware, at least ninety per cent of the population are 
Catholics, which means that the Catholic Church, 
of which I too am a member, has an immense influ- 
ence. The town of Morelia is a veritable paradise 
blue sky, balmy, delicious climate and happy-go- 
lucky indolence. The cathedral is built on an 
eminence in the centre of the town. Four large 
electric lights on the tower of the cathedral sym- 

A Runaway Impresario 163 

bolizing the Church lighting the world serve to 
illuminate the major part of the town. 

It was night when I arrived at the station, but 
I found to my great joy the Archbishop's carriage 
was waiting to take me to my hotel. The carriage 
was a most elaborate, high-up construction, its in- 
terior upholstered in red velvet and the outside 
tastefully gilded. I was very tired, and I breathed 
a sigh of satisfaction as I sank onto the soft velvet 
cushions. Alas! it was not to be all velvet and 
cushions in Morelia. 

Before we arrived we had received a request for 
the names of the operas we proposed to play during 
our week at Morelia, and I had replied that they 
would be Lucia, the opera in which I had made 
such great successes in South America, Dinorah, 
Traviata, the opera in which I was destined to 
make my sensational London debut, and The Bar- 
ber of Seville. Imagine my astonishment to be 
informed on my arrival that neither Traviata nor 
The Barber of Seville were of the type that could 
be performed in Morelia. London, I believe, is 
considered to be more scrupulous as to its stage 
morals than Mexico, and yet I was to be prevented 
from singing in Morelia a part in which I was sub- 
sequently to be " lionized " in London for singing 
so well. Still, I could appreciate the objection to 
the part of Violetta, in Traviata, because of the life 
she is made to lead in the underworld of Paris. Yet 
the whole company as well as msyself were at a loss 
to understand why The Barber of Seville was 

164 My Life of Song 

banned, and so we asked for an explanation. It 
was promptly forthcoming. In the opera Count 
Almaviva, the tenor, disguises himself as a priest 
in the famous lesson scene, and such a performance 
could not be countenanced! 

I was dismayed when a chorister reported that 
the Sunday preceding our opening a Jesuit priest 
had preached a sermon warning the public against 
the evils of the opera. One of his arguments was, 
"If you go once, you will go a second time. If a 
second time, then a third, and thus you will run. 
a grave risk of forgetting God. ' ' Consequently the 
opening night saw the theatre only half full. It 
was the first sign of failure since I had taken over 
the reins dropped by our runaway impresario. 
Save for a few American and English women, the 
audience w&s entirely composed of men. The Mex- 
ican women had taken literally the warnings of 
their priest The second and third performance 
drew a house one-quarter full. A Sunday was to 
intervene before our next public appearance, and 
I decided to make the very best use of the inter- 
vening time. Only a vigorous effort would avert 
disaster. I intended to make a bold bid to transfer 
the influence of the Church to my own side. If, I 
thought, I could get the priest to alter his attitude, 
we could soon change a partial failure into an un- 
qualified success. So I wrote a very strongly word- 
ed letter to the priest. In it I pointed out that 
since he did not wish it we would not give the two 
operas to which he had raised objection, although 

Photo: Terkekon & Henry 


A Runaway Impresario 165 

I emphasized the fact that this was the first time 
in my career that I had ever heard a word- raised 
against either of them by the Church to which I 
was proud to belong. 

I pointed out further that his public remarks 
about opera were having a serious effect upon sev- 
enty families represented by my company, who 
might be reduced to starvation. I said that opera, 
far from being a questionable pastime as he had 
suggested, was an elevating art, as our Church 
had always recognized. We had no ballet dancers, 
no girls in tights, our singers used no vulgar or in- 
decorous language and the words they sang were 
written by the greatest composers. I concluded the 
letter by stating that if he persisted in his opposi- 
tion I should be obliged to appeal directly to the 
representative in Mexico of His Holiness the Pope 
on behalf of the seventy families in my company. 

I am glad to say that the priest read my letter, 
and when he saw our point of view wrote imme- 
diately and apologized for his attitude. He went 
further. The next day he made a statement eulo- 
gizing tHe grand opera which we were giving and 
our company as well, which was one of the best 
advertisements we could have had. The result was 
seen the next night. All the town which had been 
kept back through the Church influence now 
flocked to the theatre in such numbers that it was 
with difficulty that the artists were able to get 
through the human throng to the stage entrance. 
The takings were phenomenal, and so much extra 

166 My Life of Song 

was collected for standing room that, despite the 
loss on the first few houses, we were able to leave 
with a very large margin of profit after paying all 
the expenses. 

In order not to offend religious susceptibilities 
we took a few liberties with the operas we gave 
during those last few nights. The title of the well- 
known opera Dinorak, for instance, we changed to 
l TJie Pardon of the Virgin, and advertised it as a 
Biblical opera. So far as we knew, none present 
recognized that the new sacred opera was the same 
work that Meyerbeer wrote as far back as 1859. 

I have many other pleasant and unpleasant recol- 
lections of those days I spent touring Mexico. I 
still involuntarily shudder as I think of some of 
the hotels with their musty, verminous beds, their 
broken wash-basins, their mud wells and unsanitary 
conditions. Yet the railways those were the days 
before Huerta and Carranza fought for and 
smashed the trains and the bridges were com- 
mendably good, the cars roonxy and comfortable. 

The Mexicans on the whole were quite as ready 
to do me honor as the more southern republics. I 
was frequently met at the station by the chief citi- 
zen of the town, attended by one or more of the 
local bands, who would escort me to my hotel 
After a performance the bands would come and 
serenade me as I was taking supper or about to 

Bull-fighting is a national sport, and the Mexi- 
cans consider they can do no greater honor to a 
visitor than to organize one of these events in his 

A Runaway Impresario 167 

or her interest. Many times have I been reluctant- 
ly compelled to attend one of these bull-fights. 
The organizers cannot realize it possible that there 
are persons living who dislike to see one of these 
spectacles, and so make the arrangements without 
consulting the wishes of the one they propose to 

The sight of a bull goaded to madness and then 
slaughtered was always repulsive to me. I used to 
keep my eyes closed as long as possible. But I 
was "in Borne" and "Borne" expected me to obey 
her customs. On these occasions the chief toreador 
used to send one of his handsomest mantles to 
drape the front of the box set apart for me. These 
mantles are gorgeous creations, magnificently em- 
broidered, and cost a little fortune. At the end of 
the fight the toreador would dedicate his slaugh- 
tered bull to the Signora Tetrazzini. Immediately 
this was done there would follow a roar of ap- 
plause, and I would then rise in my box and bow 
my acknowledgments. It then behooved me to send 
a token, an article of jewelry, or some other souve- 
nir of the .occasion, together with a purse of 
money, to the toreador. 

I remember that on one occasion in Mexico City 
the toreador was a very famous man who earned 
almost as much in his vocation as I did in mine. 
The opening procession of picadors and toreadors 
round the arena, with their brilliantly colored 
mantles thrown over their shoulders, was an im- 
posing spectacle. Arrived at my box, the proces- 

168 My Life of Song 

sion halted, and the chief toreador gave me a 
sweeping bow and threw a mantle up to me, thus 
placing me in a position of pre-eminence over all 
the assembled ladies. After what was hailed as a 
very fine and traditional kill, the toreador dedi- 
cated the bull to me and awaited his reward. Un- 
fortunately for me, in my hurry to prepare for 
the occasion, I had overlooked the purchase of a 
suitable present for the toreador. So I took from 
my finger a very costly diamond ring and threw 
it down to the expectant hero. He caught it deftly 
and then paraded round the arena exhibiting the 
prize. It was a glorious day and the large dia- 
mond, flashing back the sun's rays, could readily 
be seen. The handsome nature of the gift was the 
subject of much comment in the Press of Mexico 
City on the following day., That the dashing hero 
of the fight himself was pleased with the gift was 
shown a few days later, when there arrived at my 
hotel a handsome piece of silverware on which my 
name was inscribed, the donor, who was the tore- 
ador, adding that he hoped I should keep it as a 
souvenir of a great day. Which I have done. 

Some of the opera houses and theatres in Mexico 
are magnificent buildings, modern, artistic, with 
excellent acoustics. But there are not many of 
them. Often I found myself singing in dreary, 
uncomfortable halls. Some of these halls had been 
used for all kinds of purposes. One, I remember, 
served as a gymnasium, and in the centre of the 
makeshift stage was a fixed post, part of the gym- 

A Runaway Impresario 169 

nastic apparatus which caused us considerable 
embarrassment, as well as much unseemly amuse- 
ment while we were playing. That night the opera 
was Faust, and the lovers, try as they might to 
avoid it, frequently found themselves separated 
by this ridiculous post. 

My dressing-room, too, had made me feel very 
uncomfortable as I was preparing for the perform- 
ance. The atmosphere seemed oppressive and 
caused me to be unusually sad. a great contrast to 
my normal light-hearted state when about to ap- 
pear in public. It was very dimly lighted, but the 
illumination was sufficient to enable me, during the 
interval, to explore my mystery room. It was a 
great barn-like place with a high ceiling half hid- 
den by spiders ' webs. During my survey I was 
startled to discover penciled on the wall a number 
of pathetic appeals, as, for instance, "Madonna, 
come to my aid ! ' ' " Madonna, have mercy on me ! " 
" Daddy, dear, come and take me away." It was 
quite evident that this place was not normally a 
dressing-room. Sto I asked the purpose for which 
this apartment was generally used. To my con- 
sternation I learned that it was the children's 

At Queretaro, where the Emperor Maximilian 
was shot, I had several strange experiences. We 
visited the memorial chapel erected to the memory 
of the Emperor and two Mexican generals who 
were shot at the same time. There are three tablets 
to their memory in this chapel, which stands on 

170 My Life of Song 

ground then owned by a wealthy American. We 
also saw a large museum in the town containing 
mementoes of the Emperor, including one ghastly 
relic which I shall not readily forget. It was the 
rough wooden box in which the body of Maximilian 
was placed immediately after his death, and the 
stains of the royal blood were still apparent. 

Another peculiar incident happened when I was 
in my hotel at one of the larger Mexican cities. 
My room was on the ground 'floor and it abutted on, 
the garden. Early one morning my attention was 
attracted by a tapping on the window, the blinds 
of which were down. I raised them and then saw 
the raggedest man I have ever seen before or since. 
His sole clothing was a piece of shawl. If he had 
been seen so apparelled in England or the United 
States, he would have been arrested. ^Charity, 
charity, signora," he begged. As he was so ob- 
viously a genuine case I felt disposed to parley 
with him. "My good man," I said, "it seems to 
me that you have very great need of charity. You 
are probably hungry, thirsty, without money, and 
certainly almost without clothes. Now, which of 
these four would you preffey most?" He seemed 
uncertain how to answer this question, for he 
paused and tugged at his tousled hair. Then lie 
said, " Something to wear; signora, please." That 
he should ask clothes instead of money .tickled me 
slightly, and I sent him out food and drink and a 
huge shawl, the kind that the Scots caU a plaid. 
He was very grateful, too grateful, for he started 
to change Ids clothes on thB^pot. After lie had 

A Runaway Impresario 

effected the exchange he was departing, leaving 
the filthy rag in which he had arrived outside my 
window. But I called him back. "Oh, no, my 
friend, I have no need of charity. Take both," I 
said for I feared that until disinfected the old rags 
might be an object of some danger. With another 
grateful smile he did as I asked. 

Other experiences of a diverting character fell 
to my lot during those Mexican seasons, but they 
will take too much time to write and will occupy 
too mnch space. One other incident only I will 
mention here, and that was the occasion when I 
visited the celebrated Big Tree in the village of 
Tule. I noticed that the trunk of this giant 
bore the names of many persons, and I thought 
that I might inscribe my own on it as well. Bor- 
rowing a knife from my friend, I proceeded to 
carve in the bark in big letters the name Tetrazzini. 
I did not know then that this treatment of the 
celebrated tree was contrary to the State regula-* 
tions. But I knew it very soon, for two native 
policemen espied me, and, hurrying up, put me 
under arrest. I think I was more amused than 
frightened, although they seriously intended to take 
me to the police station. However, we did not get 
so far as that, for the Governor, who was near by, 
was telephoned for by one of my party. Hurrying 
to the scene, he learned my identity. Immediately 
lie heard my name he shouted to the native police- 
men to release me, exclaiming that to have the 
name Tetrazzini inscribed by herself on their 

172 My Life of Song 

famous big tree was one of the best advertisements 
that the locality could have. With that he ordered 
my captors to be taken off to spend a few hours 
themselves in the cells for not showing more com- 
mon sense in the performance of their task, which 
punishment, I felt, was rather too hard on men 
who were only doing their duty. 


NOW came the event to which I had been 
looking forward from the days when I was 
a tiny girl gladdening my mother's heart by 
singing the operas while sweeping the stairs in my 
Florentine home. London called ! 

Many timtes have I been asked why I waited so 
long before essaying an attack on the greatest city 
in the world. The only answer that I could give 
was that I was always too busy elsewhere and was 
invariably booked up when an offer came to sing 
in London. Not that before 1907 I had ever re- 
ceived an offer qtfite tempting enough to induce 
me to cancel arrangements I had aleady made* 
English impresarios, it is true, had approached 
me, but they had nothing to offer which quite came 
up to my idea so far as London was concerned. As I 
have already mentioned I had never made it a gen- 
eral practice to insist on appearing only in those 
operas which suited me, irrespective of the claims 
of others in the operatic company. I refer to 
countries where I was already known. But London 
was different. Success meant so much and failure 
so much too in London that I felt I must leave 
nothing to chance. I had long made up my mind 


174 My Life of Song 

that only as a prima donna singing in one of my 
favorite old Italian operas would I consent to ap- 
pear in the centre of the British Empire. Further, 
it must be on the stage at Covent Garden Theatre, 
the famous opera house where all the great singers 
of the past half -century had won their biggest 
triumphs, and on no other that I would make my 
bow to London. 

Some may criticize me for aiming so high, but 
it must be remembered that, though unknown to 
England, I had already attained to the highest 
pinnacle of fame as a prima donna in my own coun- 
try as well as in other European nations, in Mexico, 
and in South America. What amazed me most on 
meeting the English people, particularly some of 
the well-known writers, was "their ignorance of 
South America and their contempt for the reputa- 
tion made by an artist in the Latin Republics. 

And yet Latin Americans are second to none in 
their appreciation of music and music makers. So 
critical are the people of the South American Re- 
publics that it is more difficult for a singer to 
"arrive" in the Argentine or Brazil than in Lon- 
don or New York. The wealthy South American 
Republics have frequently paid enormous sums to 
great singers sums higher than are paid in Eng- 
land or the United States. The great Patti was 
paid more for an appearance in Buenos Aires and 
other South American towns than anywhere else 
in her world-kingdom. My own earnings in South 
Am erica, as I have already stated, were enormous, 

London's Call 175 

and increased tremendously with every season I 
spent there. As these people pay the highest, they 
expect the best singers and musicians that the 
world can produce. 

Yet London, I found, is not willing to accept an 
artist on the strength of a reputation made in 
Buenos Aires. Even Mr. Higgins, the capable and 
courteous managing director at Covent Garden, did 
not expect too much from the Tetrazzini who had 
caused such wild enthusiasm among the warm- 
blooded music lovers of Buenos Aires. After my 
London debut, and the repetition in the English 
capital of some of the tumultuous scenes which had 
happened after my first night at Buenos Aires, the 
friends of Mr. Higgins so he afterward told me 
showered on him their congratulations for having 
"discovered" Tetrazzini. Whereat Mr. Higgins, 
with his characteristic modesty, declared that the 
maximmn effort he had made to secure me for 
London was to offer me 300 to keep away. 

Strange though it may seem, that is exactly what 
he did do. Yet his action was made in a more 
kindly spirit than his bluff declaration suggests, 
as will be seen. 

My call to London was mainly due to the influ- 
ence of Signor Campanini, who was a conductor 
at Covent Garden for many years, and who was 
married to my sister Eva. Signor Campanioi, of 
course, knew of my vocal powers, and when oppor- 
tuniiy offered he mentioned my name to Mr. Hig- 
gins. That was early in 1907. I was then about 

176 My Life of Song 

to return to Italy after one of my triumphant tours 
in South America and Mexico. "When I reached 
Rome I received a letter from Mr. Higgins which 
contained the invitation to Covent Garden. It was 
the desire of my heart fulfilled ! For I was to play 
the principal soprano role in several operas, be- 
ginning with Traviata, for ten performances at 
Covent Garden. The sum that I was offered was 
120 a performance 1,200 for the brief season. 
So far as the salary was concerned, it was not an 
attractive offer. I was drawing a far bigger sum 
per performance in the Latin Republics of the New 
World. Nevertheless, I literally jumped and sang 
for joy as I read the fateful invitation. London 
at last! Now my voice would be heard and de- 
scribed to the world by some who had heard and 
described and helped to make world-famous that 
constellation of divine songstresses of a dying age 
described in England as the Victorian era. I 
thought of such eminent singers as Patti, Jenny 
Lind, Malibran, Grisi, Sontag, Tietjens, Nilsson 
and Lucca, all public idols in their day. Would I 
be able to make a hit which would entitle me to a 
coveted place by their side in the comparatively 
short scroll of musical fame? I resolved that I 
would get there even if to do so meant a super- 
human effort. I immediately wrote to Mr. Hig- 
gins and closed with his offer. 

There was plenty of time in which to prepare for 
England, but I wasted not a moment. I think I 
sang Traviata through that morning before I ate 

London's Call 177 

my breakfast. I determined that every note, every 
trill, every run, every cadenza of that great com- 
positon should be produced by my voice as near to 
perfection as is humanly possible. I acted the 
parts as I sang them. I studied again the char- 
acter of Violetta, the courtesan, recalling with a 
smile as I did so, I remember, the attitude of the 
Jesuit priest at Morelia, who had banned this opera 
as immoral, though I had been lent the exalted 
church carriage in which to drive to the opera 

I determined that no artifice known to a public 
singer which might help me to win through should 
be overlooked in my preparation for London, and 
I felt then very much like the Americans at their 
sports that to win and not the play was every- 

" Don't be too nervous or too ambitious," was 
the counsel that a very dear friend insisted on giv- 
ing me at this fateful period. "I am not nervous, 
but I am ambitious," I retorted on one occasion, 
"and I have just got to make a hit in London. " 
My friend shook her head rather sadly. 

"You may be so disappointed," said she. "Lon- 
don is not Florence, it is not Borne* and it is not 
Buenos Aires. We Southerners lose our heads 
over music. Not so in England. The English race 
is so cold-blooded. Phlegrnlatic, they call them- 
selves. They never grow excited. When they are 
happy they never show it. They laugh when they 
are displeased. They forget to shake hands when 

178 My Life of Song 

they meet a friend. Dearest friends never shake 
hands at all. They are not a very musical race, 
and they produce no operas. Though they will 
listen to Italian opera, they don't like it nowadays 
as well as modern French and Wagnerian opera. 
London is a very, very difficult stage. Don't be too 
eager, or you may come back disappointed and very 
depressed. " 

I listened to my friend as she croaked, and for 
a time I felt sad and disconsolate. "She must be 
right/' I told myself, for I had previously heard 
similar things said of London by other singers. 
But I was not to be cast down for long. "After 
all, Buenos Aires is at least as difficult as London," 
I said to myself time and time again, and con- 
tinued to school myself for the coming debut. 

Then came the bombshell ! The contract, prop- 
erly signed, had reached me safely, and I had gone 
my way singing publicly up and down Italy and 
generally preparing for my London visit. The 
contract was not for the regular season, but for a 
late autumn season, which was to follow the return 
to town of the London public. I was to sing during 
November not an ideal month for opera in Lon- 

Unfortunately for Oovent Garden, the early sea- 
son of 1907 had fallen very flat, although, as I 
heard subsequently, the directors had spent nearly 
a quarter of a million pounds to make the season 
a dazzling success. All opera waa passing through 
a difficult phase in England at this time, and the 

London's Call 

old school of Italian opera had been almost entirely 
shelved. These were the days of Wagner, Saint- 
Saens and Gounod. 

The year had opened badly. I was shown a 
translation of a description which appeared in the 
Westminster Gazette of the first nights ' perform- 
ances. The writer, in common with other critics, 
was rather caustic, but his remarks show the popu- 
larity which the new Wagnerian school had ob- 
tained in England. 

"The opera season," he wrote, "made a quiet 
start at Covent Garden last night with a perform- 
ance of Das Bheingold. Years ago it would have 
been reckoned a strange proceeding indeed to initi- 
ate the season with a work which is played in a 
pitch-dark auditorium in one long act of two hours 
and a half, and affords thereby the minimum, for 
social display; but nowadays it is taken as quite. 
a matter of course. Of late years, indeed, the sea- 
son at Oovent Garden has tended more and more 
to resolve itself into two distinct parts, which 
might be defined respectively as the grave and gay, 
with Wagnerian opera predominating in the for- 
mer, and works of a higher type in the latter. And 
the arrangement is not without its advantages 
from various points of view. But it does not give 
the season a brilliant send-off from the social 
chronicler's point of view. We must wait till 
Caruso comes to see the duchesses and the diamonds 
in all their glory, and in the meantime must console 

180 My Life of Song 

ourselves as best we may with such consolation as 
Wagner offers/' 

Die Walkure followed Das Eheingold, and the 
other two operas in the Bing were next given. 
Then came La Boheme, and the reappearance of 
Caruso in the part of Rudolf o. Despite Caruso 
and Melba and the frequent presence of the King 
and Queen, the season was not so successful as was 
expected, and it was not surprising that toward its 
end I received a communication from Mr. Higgins 
telling me that the prospects for the autumn season 
were so unpromising that he would like me to post- 
pone my London visit until the opening of the early 
season in 1908. 

At that time I did not know London or Mr. 
Higgins so well as I do now. All I could see was 
that the preparations I had been making and my 
aspirations were all in vain if I agreed to the prop- 
osition. Even in grand opera a bird in the hand 
is worth two in the bush. Above all, I was keenly 
desirous of going to London, and down in my heart 
felt that, instead of being injured by appearing in 
an unsuccessful season, I might conceivably be able 
to turn failure into success, as I had done in the 
New World on more than one occasion. 

I wrote to Mr. Higgins and told him this, adding 
that I could not see my way to agree to a cancella- 
tion of the contract for 1907 even if the offer he 
made for 1908 wtere a more attractive one. But 
Mr. Higgins was not taking my first "No" as final 
He wrote me another letter in which he reiterated 

London's Call 181 

the arguments he had at first advanced, and then 
said that as a further inducement to me to break 
my contract the directors were ready to make me 
a grant of 300. Mr. Higgins probably thought 
that this monetary offer would have the desired 
effect. The effect on me was the opposite of what 
was expected. It showed me most clearly the very 
limited knowledge of my voice which was then 
held in the great metropolis. As Covent Q-arden 
seemed to think that a paltry 300 would compen- 
sate me for my non-appearance in London, it was 
plain to me that it had no idea of my earnings in 
opera up to that date. I replied to the effect that 
in the first place I had not been attracted to Covent 
Garden by the salary that was offered, and hinted 
that I should want twice as much if I were to ap- 
pear in an English town of less importance. I 
think I made it plain that my object in accepting 
was to let the musical critics of the London Press, 
and Londoners generally, know what they had not 
seemed to realize until then that the incomparable 
old school of Italian opera was not dead, and that 
Italy could still produce a soprano able to fill the 
difficult roles created by the great composers of the 
past century. 

I told Oovent Garden very plainly that no in- 
ducement, financial or otherwise, that they could 
offer would lead me to break my contract. I went 
even farther and stated that if they did not keep 
to the letter and the spirit of the contract, I would 
still come to England, but instead of singing near 

182 My Life of Song 

their fruit and vegetable market, I would proceed 
against them in the English law courts. At the 
time I was warned that I was behaving somewhat 

"If you threaten your employer when you have 
Tirm at a disadvantage, he may retaliate on you 
when the tables are turned," said my friend, add- 
ing that if my success were anything short of sen- 
sational I need not expect any further engagements 
at Covent Garden. Knowing human nature as I 
do, and particularly the ways of operatic man- 
agers, I felt that my friend was right in her warn- 
ing. Since then I have met Mr. Higgins, and 
found that, like most Englishmen, he has a great 
admiration for anyone, especially a woman, who 
discloses a fighting spirit. 

Anyway, the Covent Garden directorate received 
my ultimatum and decided not to oppose me fur- 
ther. Nevertheless, this unfortunate break in the 
preliminaries of my debut in London considerably 
modified my enthusiasm. It seemed like an omen 
of ill-fortune. I thought it possible that the real 
reason why Covent Garden wished me to stay away 
was something different from that which was 
stated. Possibly one whom I had offended 
in some way was doing his or her best to retaliate 
on me in London. And so when, according to my 
contract, I arrived in the metropolis a week before 
the date I was to appear, it was. with very mixed 
feelings. I felt sure that at the last moment some 

London's Call 183 

further attempt would be made to balk me in the 
desire of my heart. 

How different was my arrival in London from 
that to which I had been accustomed for many 
years past! In the capitals and most of the other 
towns of the Latin Republics the governors and 
mayors and the town bands were at the station to 
accord me a ceremonial welcome, as though I were 
a queen or a foreign representative of high rank. 
But chilly London!' 

After a trying journey I arrived at Charing 
Cross. Signor Campanini, as my brother-in-law, 
knew of my coming, and was the only person await- 
ing me at the station. We took a cab a horse 
cab, for the taxis were recent introductions and 
were not plentiful in those days to the Hotel 
Cecil. I remember gazing out on London for the 
first time on that cheerless day in the late autumn 
of 1907, and shivering. It was cold and foggy. 
The Thames, of which I had so often heard, I was 
now told flowed past the hotel. I looked down to 
the Embankment, but I could see no river, although 
its marge was only a hundred yards away. All I 
could see were a few tiny points of light, which 
seemed to penetrate with the greatest difficulty the 
dense, dirty, yellow fog which enveloped the city, 
Was this fog yet another omen of ill? 

The fog percolated into the public rooms of the 
hotel; it entered the corridors and my own private 
apartments. Before I had been in London twenty- 
f our hours I had swallowed more fog than during 

184 My Life of Song 

all the rest of my life. The first day of my visit I 
could honestly say, "I don't like London." I re- 
member asking a visitor if the London fogs lasted 
all the winter; at which he laughed. Then he 
assured me that the fog that I then saw was not 
a typical London fog. It was just a moderate haze. 
I must wait* he said, until I saw the real thing a 
genuine London pea-souper, which would be at 
least three times as dense as that which then en- 
shrouded London. 

I went to the piano and tried my voice. I found 
that the fog had already slightly affected my 
throat. To my super-sensitive ear it seemed as 
though the notes were slightly clouded in conse- 
quence. I turned to my visitor : " Do you seriously 
say that the fogs are often worse than this horrible 
yellow stuff that now fills the air? If so, it may 
be wiser for me to return to Italy at once. I shall 
never be able to sing in such an atmosphere. " 

"Do not do anything so desperate, signora," he 
replied. "Bather let us pray, or sing, or whistle, 
as the sailors do, for a breeze which will drive it 

Though I sang a good deal, the only effect that 
it seems to have had was to intensify the fog which 
overhung London at the time of my debut. As it 
turned out, it was probably for the better that this 
was so, as I shall explain later. 

Meanwhile I had to make a call at Covent Garden 
to attend a rehearsal of Traviata. The rehearsal 
morning arrived, and I drove to the theatre. Be- 

London's Call 185 

fore coming to London I had heard that the home 
of English operatic art stood on one side of Eng- 
land's principal fruit, flower and vegetable market. 
Yet it was with some amazement that I saw the 
wagons and the shops in the neighborhood of the 
opera house all being utilized for market produce. 
I contrasted the surroundings of England's princi- 
pal hall of song with those of the imposing squares 
and open spaces or broad thoroughfares adjacent 
to other opera houses where I had sung, and I 
found myself wondering if a people who would 
allow their chief opera house to be planted on the 
edge of a vegetable market could be really musical. 

I recalled the story that I had once heard of a * 
German prima donna's sudden flight from Covent 
Garden, of the caustic language in which she had 
described the atmosphere through which one ap- 
proached the principal British opera house, and 
the amusement which had been caused in Germany 
by her published remarks. 

Despite the unpleasant first impressions of the 
exterior, I was soon to become deeply attached to 
a building which is certainly one of the finest audi- 
toriums in which I have sung. My voice carries 
across it with ease, its roomy stage is ideal for the 
presentation of grand opera, and the dresses and 
jewelry and social display are incomparably bril- 
liant. Covent Garden on a gala night is a glorious 
and unforgettable sight. All of the great opera 
houses, of course, present a pleasing and impres- 
sive appearance on great nights, yet there is some- 

186 My Life of Song 

thing distinctive about Covent Garden which makes 
it unlike any other opera house in which I have 
sung. The difference is too subtle, I am afraid, 
for me adequately to define, yet I sense it every 
time I sing there. And it is because of that pleas- 
ant sensation that I prefer Covent Garden, even 
with its environment of fruits and vegetables, to 
almost any other opera house in the world. 

But my thoughts were not confined to the house 
or its surroundings as I arrived at the theatre that 
morning. Other thoughts were occupying my 
.mind, thoughts of the attempt that the manage- 
ment had made to cancel my contract. In conver- 
sation afterward, Mr. Higgins laughingly con- 
fessed to me that to the report which was brought 
to him on my arrival was added the ominous 
phrase, "Tetrazzini looks very determined and 
ready to do battle with the whole of the direc- 

I sincerely hope I did not look quite so stern as 
that report suggested, although I do not deny that 
I was quite prepared for any change of front that 
might be made by the authorities. Fortunately 
there was no occasion for me to do battle. The 
management, as always, were keeping rigidly to 
the terms of their contract. When I arrived the 
company was assembled for the rehearsal and aU 
was ready for me to join them. I was shown into 
a very pleasing dressing-room, and then the other 
members of the company were introduced to me. 
I could tell from their greeting that the name of 

London's Call 187 

Tetrazzini was not very well known to them. How- 
ever, the rehearsal began, and I soon realized that 
I was surrounded by a very fine company. As we 
sang I noticed the entrance of a very tall gentle- 
man, who seemed at first to be taking very little 
interest in the proceedings. When my arias came 
along, however, I noticed that he gave a quick 
movement of his head. It may have been surprise, 
or appreciation, or both. During the interval he 
hurried to my side. He was Mr. Higgins, the busi- 
ness manager, who had first engaged me and then 
offered me 300 to stay away. 

From the moment I spoke to him my fears of 
further difficulties with the management vanished. 
Englishmen do not develop such enthusiasm as the 
Italians or the French, as I well knew. But I 
could see that the director was literally enraptured 
with my effort; he shook my hand and congratu- 
lated me wholeheartedly. 

"Your singing is nothing short of marvellous, 
Signora Tetrazzini I" he exclaimed. The others in 
the chief roles were similarly enthusiastic, and I 
would like to put on record how much I appreci- 
ated the disinterested approbation and encourage- 
ment of all my colleagues at a time which was the 
most critical of my life of song. 

As for the orchestra, every member seemed to 
have lost his head. Prime donne are not usually 
heroines to their own instrumentalists, yet the 
Covent Garden orchestra made a heroine of me 
during that first rehearsal. How shall I describe 

188 My Life of Song 

the scene? At the conclusion of the first act they 
dropped their instruments and clapped and cheered 
me for several minutes. I had a fleeting suspicion 
that prior to my arrival Signor Campanini had 
organized this outburst to hearten me for the com- 
ing debut, but that was soon dissipated by the 
hearty nature of the applause and the obvious de- 
light of every musician. And so it came about 
that my first response to a Covent Garden ovation 
was when I bowed my acknowledgments to those 
good-natured instrumentalists. Here surely was 
a splendid portent to counteract those ill omens 
previously observed. 

I went back to my hotel in a happy mood. "You 
have astonished the manager, the other singers and 
the orchestra, " I told myself. "Now you must 
astonish the London public. " 

One of my friends called my attention to the fact 
that the journalists of London had not so far dis- 
covered my existence. My namie figured in the 
advertisements of the opening performance, but the 
news columns of the newspapers had no mention 
of Tetrazzini. How different it was to what I had 
been accustomed in the New World, where hardly 
an hour of any day was allowed to pass without 
the advent of a newspaper representative who 
wished to print my views on some matter which, 
he assured me, was of great public moment. 

The fashion was first set, I believe, by Adelina 
Patti, who when in her 'teens was interviewed by 
a London journalist., Since then business manag- 

London's Call 189 

ers have insisted that their prime donne should 
talk whenever possible to newspaper representa- 
tives, so that the publicity given to the interviews 
may react favorably upon the box-office receipts. 
In America this practice is more common than 
anywhere. It was there that the Press agent first 
made his appearance. His task is to supply the 
newspapers with information concerning the artist 
If the Press agent were given a free hand, he 
would make his artist do sensational things every 
day so as to secure more publicity. On the whole, 
Press agents are more essential to those artists 
who have not made a great reputation. Instead of 
having to employ a Press agent to interest the 
newspapers in me, I was often forced to employ 
someone to protect me from too much attention 
from the newspapers, although, as I have already 
stated, I have always tried to help them whenever 
reasonably possible. 

Somjetimes I have had to resort to artifice to 
escape publicity, as, for instance, when I made my 
last visit to London in 1920. Not so during those 
few days prior to my London debut. There were 
few or no callers and certainly no journalists. 

When Patti made her debut at Oovent G-arden, 
Mr. Gye, the manager, called together some of Ms 
friends among the musical critics and told them to 
prepare for a gem of the first water. Paragraphs 
hinting that a great discovery had been made crept 
into the newspapers, and there was an air of gen- 
eral expectancy in the audience on the occasion of 

190 My Life of Song 

Patti's debut. Whether or no Mr. Higgins said 
anything to Ms friends on the Press as to what 
he thought of Tetrazzini, I do not know. This I 
know, however, that the London Press were dumb 
until I had sung. 

I was once asked how I managed to secure such 
a favorable Press boom in London. Press boom, 
indeed! The Ainerican impresarios would have 
goij demented if the preliminary Press announce- 
ments of any of their stars were on the level with 
those made concerning me when I came to London. 
So far as I know, one paragraph, and one only, 
was published in the London Press. I have kept 
this notice as an interesting curio. It is very short 
only six lines four of which referred to me. 
Here it is: 

"Madame Luisa Tetrazzini, who has been sing- 
ing in Buenos Aires, and who has just returned to 
Europe, will make her first appearance at Covent 
Garden on Saturday next in Traviata. The list of 
tenors has been further strengthened by the en- 
gagement of Signor Giraud, who will make his 
first appearance here as Don Jose in Carmen." 
Daily Graphic, Oct. 29, 1907. 

These four lines, appearing at the foot of a 
column in one London daily newspaper, were not 
likely to cause an immediate rush to hear me sing, 
Nor did they, as the next chapter will show. 



AS the hour fixed for my London debut drew 
near, I sat alone in my hotel apartments 
musing over the wonderful things that hid 
happened to me in the past through my gift of 
song, and building little castles in the air for my 
future. I was feeling more nervous than I had 
ever felt, and I fervently wished that the nerve- 
trying ordeal were over. 

Despite my state of nervous tension, however, I 
had supreme faith in my vocal and histrionic 
powers. It will be remembered that on the occa- 
sion of my debut at sixteen, in my native Florence, 
I was not deterred by nervous apprehension or by 
stage fright. It was only at a later period, when 
I had registered several important successes, that 
I awoke to the stern realities of the profession I 
had adopted and began to feel really frightened. 

After Madrid and Buenos Aires that feeling 
vanished, I thought never to return. But it came 
back to me with all its old-time force as I sat in 
my hotel that Saturday afternoon. It remained 
with me in the evening, and it was -not until the 
end of the first act that I was again the normal, 
light-hearted, happy Tetrazzin5 

192 My Life of Song 

As we sat at tea that afternoon, one of our party, 
seeking to encourage me, declared that tomorrow 
all London would be talking of me. "Perhaps," 
I replied; "hut what will they be saying? Will 
they accept me, or will they say that the old Italian 
school and its modern coloratura interpreter is not 
wanted here?" "Oh, don't be pessimistic, sig- 
nora," was the reply. "Eemember the words of 
the Seeress of Milan/ ' 

The Seeress of Milan, whose name was thus 
brought into the conversation, was certainly an ex- 
traordinary woman if only a tenth of the stories 
told of her predictions were true. Palmists are 
in great f ayor in many enlightened countries. In 
England, where the practice of their arts is con- 
trary to the law of the country, they are, neverthe- 
less, consulted by all grades of society. Some Eng- 
lish women of my acquaintance make a practice 
of visiting a palmist, a crystal-gazer, or a woman 
of this type, at least once a month. That these 
women find it profitable to dispense flattery is well 
known; it is said that those who paint the rosiest 
futures have the largest clientele. 

I have only once consulted one of these vision- 
aries, and am unable to say whether her statements 
to me were similar to those she had made to any 
other person. But I do know that they were dif- 
ferent from what she told friends of mine when 
they consulted her. It was not long before my 
London debut that I saw this remtetrkable person 
in her "witch's den" in Milan. No one knew of 

My Bow to London 193 

m Z projected visit, and I took every precaution to 
disguise my identity. From the wardrobe of one 
of my domestics I borrowed some clothing which, 
gave me the appearance of a very poor woman 
of the lower classes. 

I put a tattered shawl over my hair, and I wore 
a pair of blue, cracked spectacles to help to hide 
my features. Before leaving my home I walked 
into my garden to see the effect of my make-up on 
the gardener. He demanded to know what I was 
doing there, informed me in no uncertain language 
that I was trespassing on private ground, and 
ordered me off my own premises. Obeying his 
orders, I walked out of my garden gate and made 
my way in the direction of the den of the Milan 
Seeress, feeling well assured that if my own gar- 
dener did not recognize me there was little danger 
of my identity being discovered by the woman on 
whom I was about to call. 

The house in which the prophetess resided was 
in a low quarter of the town. From/ the exterior 
it looked dark and weird and forbidding; when 
inside I found myself comparing it with the as- 
sassin's den in Eigoletto. It seemed to me then 
that it was a good thing for my personal safety 
that I had not come to this quarter well-dressed. 
At first my hostess, a feeble old woman with white 
hair and a voice which suggested the croak of a 
jackdaw, was inclined to the view that I was a 
business woman disguised. She could tell by my 
white hands that I was not used to long hours of 

194 My Life of Song 

rough manual work, although I do a good deal of 
my own housework. She produced a well-worn 
pack of greasy cards, made various mysterious 
signs over them, commianded me to shuffle and cut 
a number of times, and then disclosed my future. 
From beginning to end she spoke of me and my 
doings in the superlative. If, she said, I w f ere a 
business woman, I should be the most successful 
business woman living ; if I were a poetess, I should 
become the most famous writer of poems of my 
time; if a writer, the leading writer; if an actress 
or a singer, the principal actress or singer in the 
world. Her insistence in speaking of me in the 
superlative amused me, and I laughed incredulous- 
ly as she spoke : But the Seeress insisted that she 
spoke only truth, as time, she said, would show. 

Then she foreshadowed some long journeys for 
me across the Atlantic. I was to go to New York, 
where I should create a great sensation, and should 
go from there all over the American continent, 
and continue to be acclaimed by all who heard me. 
But before then I was to receive an offer to visit 
London. When that offer came, said she, I must 
accept it irrespective of my first impressions and 
the attractiveness of the proposal. When I had 
accepted it, she said, I should have another offer, 
which I must refuse, for great things awaited me 
in England's capital. My name would be on every 
Up, crowds would throng to where I was. "But 
what shall I be?" I broke in. "If,, as you say, 
I am a business woman, why should crowds come 

My Bow to London 195 

to see a business woman?" "You have very good 
business ability," was the ready answer, "but you 
are not a business woman. You are in a profession, 
and I believe you are a singer. If so, you must 
continue to sing, for you are destined to be one of 
the great singers of the century." 

Then she took an egg and broke it. The yolk 
she took for herself; the white she put into a 
glass. In the albumen she professed to discover 
myself and my rivals and, pointing to me, declared : 
"You will triumph over them aU. Enemies you 
have had, and you will have more ; but no one will 
be able to hurt you." 

I did not tell the Seeress who I was, but when I 
left I presented her with fifty francs. As she took 
the money her face lighted up and*she exclaimed: 
"I was right. I knew you were not a poor woman, 
although you come to me in poor rainnent. Will 
you please write to me and tell me all about your 
triumphs when what I have 'forecasted for you 
comes true, as it will?" 

On the whole the experience was both interest- 
ing and amusing, although I did not attach much 
importance to it And I only mention it here be- 
cause the forecast of this woman was, in a measure, 

Saturday evening, November 2, 1907, came, and 
I, still in a state of nervous excitement, arrived at 
the theatre to make my bow to London. 

"It is Saturday night. The house should be 
full. Is it?" I inquired of one of the company. 

196 My Life of Song 

"Oh, yes, signora," said he. "They are turning 
people away." As he spoke he laughed, and his 
laugh was echoed by others in the company. I 
went to the curtain and, drawing it slightly aside, 
surveyed the great, gloomy-looking auditorium. It 
seemed empty. ' ' Where are the people ? " I asked, 
this time speaking to one of the directors who stood 
by. "Don't be agitated, signora," he answered. 
"The house is full. You cannot see the people 
because of the fog." 

It was quite true that London was again in the 
grip of the fog-field. My cab had to crawl through 
the swirling yellow stuff as we travelled to the 
theatre, and some of the fog had flowed into the 
auditorium from) the street, rendering it difficult 
to see across the great building. Nevertheless I 
knew that the authorities were only attempting to 
minimize the disappointment which I should feel 
when I realized that I was singing to a poor house. 

The theatre was not full. Far from it. Although 
it was Saturday, the best day of the week for 
theatres, there were only a few people in the stalls, 
about two boxes were occupied, the pit and gallery 
were each about half full. And this was the best 
audience that all London could produce to hear a 
new singer. I heard subsequently that the takings 
were not sufficient to pay my salary for the night 
120. Evidently London did not like old Italian 
opera, particularly Verdi's Traviata. Fog and a 
poor house on the best night of the week! Truly, 
grand opera was in a bad way in London. 

My Bow to London 197 

We started. Signer Panizza was the conductor, 
and my colleagues in the principal roles were the 
great Sammarco as the leading baritone, and 
Signor Carpi as the tenor. Hesitant and nervous 
though I was at the start, I sang and acted to the 
maximum of my powers. Even in this handful of 
people I thought there must be some who could 
appreciate my efforts. All the skill, all the arts 
I possessed, I brought into full play. Soon that 
Jiandful of people began to respond. As I felt 
them stirring I found my task easier; my voice 
seemed to get the notes with less effort. I was 
acting with greater freedom and more naturally. 
In fact, I was losing that foolish supersensitiveness 
and was conscious only of the part. When, as I 
knew by experience, I could feel thus, I knew that 
ajl was well. And so it was. At the end of the 
first act I knew that I had conquered London. 

During the first interval many of the people be- 
hind the scenes, including Sammarco, congratu- 
lated me profusely. In the front of the house, I 
heard later, there was unusual excitement. AH 
were enthusiastic, and some, who had only come 
to pass away a dull evening, were so enraptured 
that they slipped out to the telephone to tell their 
friends that a wonderful singer had descended 
upon Covent G-arden. Some of these friends an- 
swered the call, and so there were a few more 
persons in the boxes and stalls during the last two 
acts. Down in the foyer the musical critics were 
excitedly discussing the newcomer and comparing 

198 My Life of Song 

me with other prime donne of the past half- 
century. In all parts of the house there was intense 
excitement during the second and third acts. It 
grew until the performance ended with a tornado 
of applause so loud and sustained that it might 
have been produced by a crowded house on a gala 
night* More congratulations from everyone be- 
hind the scenes followed, and then I was in my cab 
crawling back through the fog to my hotel. 

"You will sing to a larger audience next week," 
Mr. Higgins prophesied before my departure from 
the theatre. "These few people will go back to the 
West End houses, to the London clubs, to their 
business offices, and tell a marvellous story of to- 
night's performance. Even if the Press do not 
applaud you the public will come after they have 
heard the description of your singing that these 
people will give." I felt very happy and tranquil 
as I retired that night, having previously arranged 
that the Sunday newspapers should be brought up 
to me early and that someone who could translate 
into Italian, French, or Spanish should attend me. 

On Sunday morning the newspapers and the 
translator arrived, and I, with throbbing heart, 
made ready to hear my fate as decreed by Fleet 
Street. What would these critics say? Would 
they echo the applause of the audience or elect to 
write me down as second rate? As the interpreter 
turned the pages of one of the newspapers he made 
an exclamation of joy. "Listen, signora, they call 
you the new Patti!" In his excitement he held 

My Bow to London 199 

up the paper for me to see the name of Patti ap- 
pearing beside that of Tetrazzini. 

I still have at my house at Lugano the clippings 
of the newspapers of those days following my 
debut. In most of them I am described as the new 
Patti. It was nearly fifty years before that date 
that Patti had made her bow to Covent Garden 
and caused a public fever similar to that aroused 
by her illustrious predecessor, Jenny Lind. In 
those days not all the critics were unanimous in 
their recognition of the genius of the little lady. 
At least one of them made an attack upon her 
voice. Of course he was wrong, as time and public 
opinion demonstrated so incontestably. From the 
press cuttings that I received it would seem that 
I was luckier than Patti, inasmuch as I escaped 
any direct attack. One or two newspapers devoted 
only a short appreciative notice to my debut, but 
when their contemporaries appeared with column 
eulogies of my gif ts, they became more interested, 
and when I again appeared on Covent Garden stage 
they gave as much of their space to my work as the 
others were doing. 

So far these reminiscences have proceeded with- 
out giving a description of my voice. It was de- 
scribed so often and in such varied language in 
the London Press at the time that perhaps I may 
be pardoned for quoting extracts which serve both 
to describe it to the reader and to indicate the 
impression that it made upon the musical critics 
of London. One of the most remarkable descrip- 

200 My Life of Song 

tions that appeared was published in the Da/ily 
News under the heading: "Voice of a Century. 
Dazzling Success of Madame Tetrazzini. A Peer- 
less Soprano." 

"We had heard something of Mme. Tetrazzini be- 
fore Saturday night," (said the writer) "bat nothing 
that prepared us for such a sensational debut. The 
new soprano, who has had the most brilliant successes- 
in South America, where they pay fabulous sums to 
operatic artists, should prove the greatest attraction 
Covent Garden has ever had. The voice reminds one 
now of Melba's and now of Patti's. It is not a big 
voice as modern dramatic sopranos are accounted, 
and would not be suitable, I suppose, to modern dram- 
atic music or to grand opera of the type of Ai&a," 
(Here my critic went slightly astray, as one of the 
operas in which I was invariably successful was Aida. 
I have appeared in this famous work many hundreds 
of times.) "But to describe the voice as a light soprano 
is quite wrong. It may be light in volume and in 
character, as the voice of Patti was, and of Melba is, 
but it is capable of more color than the voice of either 
of these great singers. 

"The quality of tone produced by Tetrazzini 
ravishes the senses. It is soft and golden, and yet 
has none of the impersonal and chilling perfection of 
the ordinary light soprano. The most difficult tech- 
nical problems are executed with the ease which marks 
a virtuoso's playing of a cadenza in a concerto. Every 
note is perfect and the singer's command of her re- 
sources so complete that there is no sense of a diffi- 
culty being overcome. The voice has dramatic edge, 
too, when required, and it was noticeable that Mme. 
Tetrazzini dominated the noisy finales of Verdi *s 

My Bow to London 201 

" Above all, the main impression of her 'Violetta' 
was not musical alone. I have never seen the pathos 
of Verdi's heroine realized with such grip and sin- 
cerity. In the big scene with ' Giorgio Germont,' most 
sopranos who can sing Ah! fors' e lui with dazzling 
effect ignominiously fail, because here real acting is 
required, and singers of the type of Melba and Patti 
are not great actresses. Mme. Tetrazzini, who to be 
sure had the advantage of playing with Signor Sam- 
marco, gave the scene a new life. Both by use of her 
voice and by facial expression, she vividly conveyed 
the reality of Violetta's sacrifice, and many of us 
were impressed for the first time by the fact that Verdi 
had written dramatic music after all. 

"In the last act this great artist did not have re- 
course to the physical gasping by which the majority 
of sopranos express the agony of the dying woman, 
but held the audience spellbound by the simple pathos 
of her singing and by the subtle expressiveness of her 
acting. In physique she is scarcely more fitted to the 
part of 'Violetta' than is Mme. Melba. 

"I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that 
Mme. Tetrazzini has the voice of a century and stands 
out from even the great Italian singers we know in 
respect of powers of acting with her voice. When we 
read the accounts of the celebrated singers of the 
' coloratura * school, we wondered how they made such 
deep impressions on their audiences, and we are forced 
to the conclusion that singing was judged much as we 
judge the violin playing of a Kubelik. 

"Mme. Tetrazzini explained the mystery. Every 
bar of the music was sung with feeling, expression 
and dramatic appropriateness. She phrased accord- 
ing to the meaning of the words, and not merely from 
the point of view of absolute musical display. A run, 
as she executes it, becomes expressive; a high note 

202 My Life of Song 

seems a natural dramatic climax. Indeed, she even 
gave an example of this on her own account. At the 
end of Ah! fors' e lui she introduced a little upward 
trill which wonderfully expressed the hysterical feel- 
ing of 'Violetta.' Such singing gives one a new idea 
of the capability of the human voice and makes one 
reconsider modern ideas of writing for it. 

"The audience, always quick to recognize great 
talent, accepted Mme. Tetrazzini with the utmost en- 
thusiasm. Her debut will make the autumn season of 
opera memorable in musical history. E. A. B." 

Such, flattering criticism from one of England's 
greatest daily newspapers was more than I expect- 
ed, even in the most fantastic of my girlish dreainls. 
But this was only one of many similar articles, all 
of which were glowingly appreciative. Another, 
which I feel I must quote for the sake of an ad- 
equate record of this, my sensational London debut, 
appeared in the Daily Mail. The great newspaper 
adopted the conventional title of "New Patti," 
beneath which were other headlines proclaiming 
my "Triumph at Oovent Garden, " and that I had 
"Twenty Recalls." 

' 'It is a curious trait of London audiences 9 9 (said the 
Daily Mail) "that they will never believe in the great- 
ness of an artist until they have heard for themselves. 
Mme. Tetrazzini, who on Saturday night made one of 
those rare sensations which herald the appearance of 
a new diva, has already achieved something like fame 
in South America and on the Continent. But she came 
to us with no flourish of trumpets, a singer to all in- 
tents and purposes unknown. 

My Bow to London 203 

"Today all London will be hailing the advent of a 
new operatic star one of those commanding figures 
which sweep across the musical horizon once, perhaps, 
in a generation. For Mme. Tetrazzini's impersona- 
tion of 'Violetta' in La Traviata shows her the equal 
of a Patti or a Melba and such a scene of popular 
enthusiasm as occurred on Saturday at Covent G-ar- 
den will not lightly be forgotten. This is no exag- 
gerated praise. " 

After this vigorous opening the critic proceeds 
to talk of my magic gift of tears ! 

"So many operatic sopranos " (he says) "regard 
the part of 'Violetta' merely as a background for the 
display of vocal pyrotechnics. To use a vulgarism of 
the stage, they 'walk through it/ Not so Tetrazzini 
we may drop the 'Mme.' now, just as we do in the 
case of Patti, Nordica and Melba. She brings to the 
old Verdi opera a human tenderness and pathos which 
few of us realized that it possessed, She has the 
magic gift of * tears in the voice/ and is withal a 
consummate actress. " 

Describing the effect of my singing on the 
meagre audience, he says: 

"Her rendering of the familiar Ah! fors' e Im and 

the wonderful ease and nonchalance with which she 
trills upon E in alt completely astonished the audience. 
For a while the house was silent and spellbound, then 
the storm burst. Probably since Patti first sang in the 
part there has ntit been so great an ovation. Again 
and again the new singer was recalled and it appeared 
as though the curtain would go on being raised and 

204 My Life of Song 

lowered, and Tetrazzini would go on coming forward 
and bowing, indefinitely. In the foyer between the 
acts the one topic of conversation was the new PattL" 

Mr. Higgins had already told me what the Press- 
men were saying concerning myself and Patti dur- 
ing those intervals, and so I was not surprised 
when the writer stated that: 

" Critics of hoary experience compared her to the 
diva in her best days, and wrapped themselves in a 
maze of reminiscences. It was a triumph, immediate, 
complete ! During the evening the new Violetta must 
have had more than twenty recalls. As already said, 
she has the gift of * tears in the voice.' There were 
actual tears among the audience, too, on Saturday 
night when she sang Ditt alia Giorgio, lifted out of its 
customary vocal display into a song of renunciation, 
heart-rending in .its emotional intensity. Never in late 
years have we seen La Traviata acted as Tetrazzini 
played it on Saturday night; rarely, if ever, have we 
heard Verdi 's music so exquisitely sung. Let us hope 
that this great artist will be heard in many other roles 
here, for her repertoire is an extensive one. 

"To a representative of the Daily Mail Mme. Tet- 
razzini professed herself delighted with her reception. 
'It is far, far more than I had hoped for,' she said. 
'In America and on the Continent, people had always 
told me that your London audiences are so cold, so 
I was not a little nervous when the curtain rose last 
night But as soon as I saw the ladies applauding I 
felt myself at once. That is the most astonishing thing 
to me about your audiences the ladies applaud too. 
It is what one never sees in Italy and Spain, and very 
rarely elsewhere on the Continent. > 

My Bow to London 205 

"Tetrazzini's vocal range is an extraordinarily large 
one, extending from the B below the stave (an excep- 
tional one for a soprano) to E in alt" 

Though the writer was not aware of it, I can 
easily touch higher than E altissimo. Some of the 
newpapers in those days published music charts to 
show to their readers the compass of my voice. 
My readers, from this and the foregoing, will 
gather something of what the Press of London 
were writing concerning me in those memorable 
days of that foggy November in 1907. 

Now I must tell of my own sensations. 



OH, the excitement of those next few days ! 
When I alighted from the continental train 
a week before none called and few thought 
it worth while to book seats to hear me sing. Now 
what a change! I was no longer a stranger in a 
strange and chilly land. My quarters at the hotel 
were no longer oppressively, almost ominously, dull 
and silent. Indeed, I found that I had been trans- 
ferred to the other extreme. 

Persons of whom I had never heard, represent- 
ing concerns of which I knew little or nothing, 
crowded in on me at all times of the day and night. 
The newspapers sent their representatives, who 
came along to my hotel in dozens. Until that week 
I did not know and should never have believed 
that there were so many journals published in one 
city. The daily Press began to arrive before I had 
finished my breakfast on Sunday morning. Jour- 
nalists, like doctors, have no time or liking for 
formalities. They do not trouble to send up their 
names, but usually penetrate without assistance to 
my suite, knock at the door, and then walk in. By 
lunch time I thought that I had assuredly seen 
all who would want to know about me ; but it was 
not so. Before I had finished talking to one, 


First Fruits of World Fame 207 

another Had arrived, and it was only by going out 
for a drive in a cab in the afternoon that I was 
able to obtain a little respite for that day. 

One of the journalists was very anxious for me 
to describe how it felt to become famous in a night 
I showed him a photograph of myself at a great 
bull-fight in Mexico City receiving from the tor- 
eador the honors of the kill; I also showed him a 
picture of some of the frenzied crowds who had 
acclaimed my voice in South America, and some 
Press cuttings describing my debut before the 
Italian Eoyal Family at Rome m'any years ago. 

"It is so long since I was made famous in a 
night that I almost forget what it feels like," I 
said to him. But he was not to be put off in that 

"Ah, signora, you do not quite understand, " he 
persisted. "Newspapers have to give the public 
what they want to read, otherwise they won't read 
them. Now the British public love to read about 
somebody who was a nobody suddenly becoming 
a great personage. If you can give me something 
which wiU contrast your past life of obscurity with 
your present popularity, it will make very inter- 
esting reading. For instance, cannot you tell me 
a story of how you once tried to obtain a post in 
the chorus of Covent Garden, and how the author- 
ities there would not offer you a position, with the 
result that you went away sick at heart, to return 
later a great prima donna with all London at your 

208 My Life of Song 

"I am very sorry that I cannot oblige you," I 
replied; "but I was never in a chorus. You see, I 
began to sing as a prima donna." But the jour- 
nalist would have none of my successes. 

"It is your failures that I want to hear about, 
signora, not your successes. I want to write some- 
thing which will be the opposite of your great suc- 
cess of last night. I want a kind of a Cinderella 
story about you: one night a beggar maid, and the 
next night the belle of the ball, betrothed to the 

"Unfortunately, I have had no failures," I 
answered, speaking somewhat sorrowfully, for by 
now I was so amused at his quaint request that I 
felt no resentment at his desire to liken me to a 
beggar girl. I searched my memory to see if I 
could find some unfortunate circumstance in my 
life which would help him. "You see," I went on 
apologetically, "I did not happen to be born in a 
family which was starving. I have never yet been 
forced to go hungry. I have not" 

"Have you never been what we call ' broke "?" 
he interpolated. "Have you never had to sing in 
the streets?" 

"Yes, I have done that. " 

At this my inquisitor's eyes lighted up. "That 
is what I have been wanting to find out. I knew 
you would be able to tell me a good story if I 
questioned you sufficiently." 

With that he hastily took out his notebook and 
prepared to write all that I had to say about my 

First Fruits of World Fame 209 

singing in the street. "Where did it happen? 
How old were you? Did you take up your own 
collection ?" were some of the questions that this 
young enthusiast fired at me. 

"It happened in a number of places, " I an- 
swered. "Once in San Francisco. That was last 
year. The townsfolk took up the collection for a 
local charity. We had nearly a quarter of a mil- 
lion persons present, and a very large sum of 
money was collected many thousands of pounds 
_and " 

But the journalist had stopped writing. "No, 
no, signora," he protested. "Not that. Not a 
great concert at which thousands were present, but 
an ordinary street entertainment one which you 
Oaad to give to get a few shillings to pay for your 
night's lodging. As you sang, someone who heard 
your voice came up to you and said that one day 
you would become a great singer and gave you 
twopence. Now the day has arrived. Something 
in that .vein I" 

I shall never forget the doleful expression on 
the face of that young journalist as he went out 
without the story for which he came. He said that 
his editor had told him before he came that he was 
to get that particular kind of interview with me 
and no other ! I sent out the next day for a copy 
of the journal for which he wrote, being curious 
to know what he would tell his readers about me. 
I will not mention the name of that newspaper- 
it has a large circulation but I must state that in 

210 My Life of Song 

my opinion the writer of the article concerning 
myself displayed a much too vivid imagination. 
The journalist was obviously more alarmed at the 
possible wrath of his editor than at the prospect 
of hurting my feelings, for he pictured me, prior 
to my arrival in London, as almost one of the 
submerged tenth, a singer who would count her- 
self fortunate to pick up a few guineas as a memr 
ber of a pierrot troupe. He described my long 
struggle against misfortune, which, he said, was 
at last ended through the kindly intervention of a 
brother-in-law in an influential position at Covent 
Garden. But for him, said the writer, I might 
still be an unknown vocalist earning a haphazard 
living by singing at third-rate concerts. 

Though this writer excelled as an imaginative 
artist, I have met since in America many jour- 
nalists who could give him a long start and then 
win. In America, if I were too busy to see a news- 
paper representative at the moment he called, I 
might read in his journal on the following day a 
provocative article describing Tetrazzini as being 
in the " tantrums, " too angry with the world to 
talk to anyone, or I might read that I was too in- 
censed at somfe words of praise which had been 
written in his journal about other artists in the 
company in which I was singing. Not a pleasant 
way to treat a lady who might have been out or 
resting -when the unexpected visitor called. On 
one occasion an American journalist declared that 
I left one of the great towns in a huff because the 

First Fruits of World Fame 211 

Press did not give me so much praise as was cus- 
tomary for me to receive elsewhere, which, of 
.course, was absolutely preposterous. 

On the next day more journalists came, and they 
continued to visit me all the time I remained in 
London. Sometimes they wanted to know if I 
thought the English people were good judges of 
music; sometimes they wanted an appreciation or 
a criticism of another great singer, of Caruso, of 
Patti, of Titta Buffo, of Sam'arco, of Clara Butt, 
of Melba ; sometimes they wanted me to say some 
very foolish things that all opera ought to be 
sung in English, that the Premier ought to go to 
the opera more often, that England could produce 
as great composers as Italy; sometimes I was 
asked to edit the musical column of a journal for 
one week an invitation I did not accept; some- 
times I would be requested to write the story of 
my life for publication in serial form, or to nar- 
rate some of the most extraordinary incidents of 
miy life so that a Tetrazzini film might be prepared. 

These and many other varied and of ttimes amus- 
ing requests were being constantly made to me. I 
think every photographer in the West End of 
London wrote or sent a representative to me with 
the object of taking my photograph. Most of them 
were ready to do this without charge. "Why do 
you want to photograph me without my paying 
for it?" I asked one of these representatives; and 
he explained that photographers make it a prac- 
tice to get as many notables as possible on their 

212 My Life of Song 

shelves, as pictures of celebrities are frequently 
required for publication in magazines and picture- 
papers, which pay very well indeed for them. 

But my visitors were not only Ptessmen and 
photographers. Every business in London which 
was closely or remotely connected with music and 
the stage attempted to communicate with me either 
by letter or through a personal representative. If 
the firm sold music, why then I must surely want 
to sing some of the music they published, and I 
could have as many copies as I liked of any work 
or works that I chose to select from their list. 

"But I don't want any new music/' I protested 
to one caller who was begging me to accept a copy 
of some new score. " There is more in the old 
operas than I shall ever be able to sing." 

"Perhaps so/ 7 he answered, "but all great 
singers sing some of the new English ballads. You 
cannot please the English people for long unless 
you sing them something in their own language." 

"It is very good of you to take all this trouble 
to come here to bring me music for nothing. Why 
do you do this?" I asked him. 

"Oh, partly for your benefit, signora," he re- 
plied, very naively, it seemed, "and partly for 
the sake of my firm. Of course, if you sing this 
new song, all the people will talk about it, and then 
they will want to sing it too. That will make our 
song sell by hundreds of thousands, wMch will be 
very good business!" 

I thanked him, and dozens more who came on 

First Fruits of World Fame 213 

similar errands, but I did not sing Ms song. If 
I had accepted only a few of those that were 
proffered me, and spent my time practising them, 
I should have had no timte left to do anything else. 
Some of the music publishers made me monetary 
offers conditional on my singing some of the new 
'compositions, but I did not close with any of 

On the occasion of my last visit to London in 
October, 1920 there was thrust into my hand as 
I was entering the stage door at the Royal Albert 
Hall a sheaf of new songs published by a certain 
house. A note attached expressed the hope that I 
might, if not on that occasion, then on some future 
date, sing one or more of these in public. If and 
when I did so, the business house would be pre- 
pared to pay me a certain sum of money. At the 
bottom of the letter there was a footnote suggest- 
ing that I might like to sing one of the new songs 
by way of an encore that afternoon which did 
not give me much time by way of preparation. 
Though I could not help respecting the business 
enterprise of the music publishers, I must say 
that none of this music gave me a thrill at all 
comparable with that which I felt when I hurried 
away to the conservatoire with the stolen copy of 
Verdi's new opera, Otello. 

Then there were the firms that sold voice pas- 
tilles, cures for colds, creams to preserve and beau- 
tify the complexion, and dozens of other things 
essential to modern life. My morning post 

214 My Life of Song 

brought me samples innunierable of an infinite 
variety of preparations, all of which I was assured 
might be used -by me in any quantity without cost 
to myself. Did I smoke? which I do not then 
I eould have as many of a certain variety of cigar- 
ettes as I chose to order. They would be sent to 
my address in any part of the world. The firm 
would, in return, be grateful for a line from me 
stating my opinion of their goods. If I had ac- 
cepted the same and sent the required testimonial, 
there would soon have appeared blatant advertise- 
ments announcing to the world that TetrazzinTs 
favorite smoke was So-and-so's hand-cut Virginia. 
As I have said, I do not smoke, and have always 
advised anyone who would retain a good voice to 
avoid the habit. 

Ais with the tobacco firm, so with the other busi- 
ness houses. The voice pastilles that were sent 
me I did not use, nor did I accept the cures for the 
various ills, real and imaginary, which found a 
way into my room. I verily believe that if I had 
agreed to the propositions that were made to me 
by business houses at that time my name and 
photograph would have figured in most of the ad- 
vertisements of that day. A journalist who was 
in my room at the time when one of these samples 
arrived uged me to fall in with the firm's sugges- 
tion, and argued that it would be very helpful to 
me as a public singer to obtain the free advertise- 
ment which this firm was proposing to give me. 

First Fruits of World Fame 215 

To him, apparently, a prima donna was on the 
same level as a mannequin. 

Among the others who called on me at all hours 
of the day and night during that memorable first 
week after my London debut were, of course, the 
inevitable dressmakers. If I were to appear at 
any private or public concert and I appeared at 
many the dressmakers would be only too happy, 
they said, to supply me with a dress suitable to 
the occasion. And so the days passed. From 
morning to night I was given no peace. All day 
my head was in a whirl through the attentions of 
persons I had not asked to call. On most nights 
I went to bed with a headache only to awaken 
to be greeted with a further flood of correspond- 
ence and to receive, or with difficulty avoid, a 
succession of callers. 

The most interesting of my visitors on the Mon- 
day morning which followed my first appearance 
at Covent Garden were the representatives of the 
numerous talking machine companies which have 
their offices and works in and around the British 
capital. Until this time my voice had not been re- 
corded for the talking machine. On more than one 
occasion I had been approached by one or another 
of the talking machine firms with a view to hav- 
ing my voice recorded, but I had hitherto declined, 
for two reasons : one, that the talking machine was 
at first so imperfect a musical instrument there 
was too much of the tin can and ragtime about its 
reproduction; and, two, that the remuneration 

216 My Life of Song 

offered me was so low that I did not consider it 
worth my while to give the necessary time to it. 

Let me say here how astonished I have been by 
the great improvements made in the talking 
machine, which is now unquestionably capable of 
exquisitely reproducing high-grade music. I have 
one in each of my homes in Italy, and I find it a 
delightful entertainer as well as a very service- 
able instructor. I have records, by all the well- 
known artists, of every one of the operas and bal- 
lads which I -sing. I constantly try these records 
over and listen intently for the faults of the artists, 
and try to profit by their mistakes. I also try over 
my own records and find that this practice helps 
me considerably in the task of keeping my voice 
in perfect condition. 

In a few days I came to a decision as to which 
was the best company to record my voice and 
signed a contract with the Victor Talking Machine 
Company, for whom I have recorded exclusively 
ever since. 

It was about this time that I entered into my 
first contract with the famous impresario, Oscar 
Hammerstein. His New York venture was then 
doing very badly owing to the opposition of the 
Metropolitan Opera House, which had secured the 
great Caruso as its foremost star. The news of 
my London success was cabled to New York, and 
Mr. Hammerstein came hurrying over to secure 
me for his own opera house at the earliest possible 
date. That he was coming he made known to me 

First Fruits of World Fame 217 

by cable, and I held over all other offers from 
transatlantic impresarios until he arrived. 

English impresarios also called on me at this 
time to urge me to undertake tours of the British 
provinces and of the British Empire. But I did 
not sign any contracts other than that with the 
Victor Talking Machine Company and another 
with Covent Garden, as I had been advised to be 
cautious and to wait until the biggest offers came 
along. Mr. Biggins was at this time as I heard 
him say afterward in a difficult position. He 
had brought me to London, against his own wish, 
a singer who had made an almost unprecedented 
stir, even for Covent Garden. And he had al- 
lowed me to arouse the British public without pre- 
viously securing a hold on my services for a termi 
of years. But Mr. Higgins, who is a very keen 
business man as well as a good judge of a singer 
and a production, took very speedy steps to put 
himself in a better position. It was not long after 
my debut that he was trying to negotiate a fur- 
ther agreement with me. I signed a contract for a 
further three seasons at Covent Garden. But the 
salary I agreed to accept was considerably higher 
than that I was then receiving. I was to get 
160 a perf ormiance the first year and 180 a per- 
formance during the next two years. 

I received many invitations at this time to be a 
guest or to sing at West End parties, some of 
which I accepted, and soon I began to know the 
West End of London and many of its titled and 

218 My Life of Song 

distinguished residents. I remember one after- 
noon being driven past Covent G-arden when I 
saw a long line of people waiting in a queue. Some 
were seated on folding chairs which they had 
brought with them from their homes. 

"Look, signora! All these people are waiting 
to hear you sing tonight ! Some people have been 
here since dawn this morning. " It was my friend 
who spoke. The sight astonished me, for it was 
then no later than two-thirty. I felt very sorry 
for the poor people who had to wait all that time 
to hear me sing. But I also felt very happy that 
I had been able to arouse such enthusiasm in 
phlegmatic London. 

"This is what used to happen in the days of 
Jenny Lind and when Patti first began to sing at 
'Covent G-arden, " my companion, a veteran opera- 
goer, explained. 

"It makes me feel so happy," I replied, "that 
I think I should like to sing to this queue from 
the cab windows. " 

With that I made a motion to pull down the 
window and stop the cab. My friend laid a re- 
straining hand on my arm. 

"Sorely, Tetrazzini, you know better than 
that!" she exclaimed, "If you were to do that 
here in the London streets you would be mobbed. 
Remember what happened to you in Rio de Janiero 
and Buenos Aires. These people would enjoy one 
song, but they would surround the cab and want 
souvenirs and demand to shake hands. By the 

First Fruits of World Fame 219 

time you could free yourself you would feel unfit 
for singing again tonight. You must also remem- 
ber that you have only appeared once; it would 
never do for you to make a bad impression inside 
the house on the second night of your appear- 
ance. " 

"But these are English people; they don't dem- 
onstrate in the streets, I am told/' was my reply. 
Then my friend told me the story of how on one 
occasion Patti had been mobbed by her admirers 
in the streets of London and had to seek refuge in 
a strange house. The shock of the incident had 
prevented her from singing for several days. 
Though I would have enjoyed giving Londoners 
an impromptu concert in the open air, I took my 
friend's advice and held myself in reserve for the 
evening's performance. There was another ob- 
jection to singing to the queue which I had over- 
looked at the time the effect on the Covent Gar- 
den management. According to my contract I 
was prevented from singing anywhere else in 
England without permission of the Covent Garden 
Syndicate, during the period covered by the ten 
performances for which I had been engaged. 

On my return to my hotel I learned that all the 
seats for this, my second performance, had been 
sold out early on the previous Monday morning, 
and that wealthy people were offering fancy prices 
to the fortunate ticket-holders to part with their 
seats. One enterprising concert agency had at- 
tempted to purchase outright from Covent Gar- 

220 My Life of Song 

den all the seating accommodation for my remain- 
ing eight performances* The evening newspaper 
which was brought up to me at tea-time contained 
a long description of the scenes at the opera house. 
Such things, they said, had not been witnessed at 
any ordinary performance at Covent Garden for 
a generation. Though I had achieved success on 
the first night, this description of what was hap- 
pening in and around the opera house slightly un- 
nerved me for my second appearance. But some- 
thing was to happen at Covent Garden that night 
which, had I read of it beforehand, would have 
excited me still more and probably have pre- 
vented me from appearing at all. 



ONE of the myriads of newspaper readers 
who saw me described as "the new Patti" 
was the great Patti herself. News of my 
success quickly penetrated to her castle of Craig- 
y-nos, a beautiful but lonely dwelling hidden away 
among the Welsh mountains. I have met some 
prime donne and have heard of others who have 
become so convinced of their own pre-eminence 
that they will neither discuss nor go to hear a new 
singer, however great the reputation achieved by 
the newcomer. It was not so with Patti. It is not 
so with any truly great artist. 

Greatness has no place and no time for envy 
and jealousy. Why should a glorious singer, a 
master sculptor, a great painter, feel piqued to 
learn that another luminary has entered and is 
brightly shining in his cobalt sky? When our 
astronomers discover a new star in the heavens, 
no one says that the star is not wanted. The 
heavens are vast, and a few million more stars 
would make but little apparent difference. There 
is no danger of overcrowding. Nor is there any 
reason to fear a surplus of divine songsters and 
songstresses on our globe. Far from it. 

222 My Life of Song 

There are, alas ! too few great voices to meet the 
public demand to hear them. More and better 
music and more and better music-makers are at 
the top of the list of Mother Earth's most pressing 

Is there any other art which exercises such a 
beneficial influence on mankind? This world of 
harsh noises and harsher experiences would soon 
become unendurable but for the soothing influ- 
ences of music in its various forms, especially the 
unrivalled music of the human voice. How many 
millions, I wonder, have been encouraged to carry 
on in the most trying circumstances through the 
uplifting and stimulating influence of song? If I 
were ever to feel envious of another diva, the feel- 
ing w*ould soon be dissipated by a brief reflection 
upon the majestic nature of our calling. We are 
the music-makers, the media through whom our 
fellow-creatures touch the celestial plane while yet 
on earth. They ascend with our voices to the lofty 
regions above the tree-tops, to the pure and rare- 
fied atmosphere of the mountain-peaks, to magical 
spheres of which we only have the key. Millions 
want to enter those ethereal regions, but the gates 
are few, many are small, the total is insufficient 
to admit alTcomers to those realms of earthly bliss. 
Then why should we who hold the keys of the main 
entrance feel resentment at hearing that a new 
and broad gateway has been unlocked to the clam- 
orous public? We should be joyful, and not en- 
vious. Patti regarded her gifts as the keys where- 

Patti's Smile 223 

with to admit the world to the garden of beautiful 
sound. Patti was too great to harbor any petty- 
jealousy when she read at her breakfast table in 
the Welsh mountains the glowing descriptions of 
my London debut. She immediately decided to 
hasten to London to hear for herself if what the 
critics said were true. Of course, I had no knowl- 
edge that she intended to be present at Covent 
Garden on Thursday, November 7, 1907. It was 
not until a few minutes before the curtain rose 
that someone hurried to my dressing-room ex- 
claiming, "Signora, Patti's here." In my excite- 
ment I sprang to my feet, with the result that my 
hair, which my maid was in the habit of adjust- 
ing, was badly disarranged. 

"Are you sure?" I said incredulously. 

"Yes, signora, quite sure. We all know Patti 
at Covent Garden. Sihe is in the second row of 
the stalls." 

My informant pointed out the exact position, so 
that I should have no difficulty in discovering 
Patti as I went on. To describe my feelings at 
that moment is almost impossible. My heart sank. 
For the moment I seemed to lose control of my 
body. "Oh, I cannot sing to Patti," I exclaimed. 
"It would be too presumptuous." 

My sensations on entering that night were such 
as I do not ever wish to repeat. It was difficult 
on the previous Saturday, when I made my first 
bow to London in a hall a quarter full. It was far 
worse on this, the second night. "Everybody has 

224 My Life of Song 

called me the new Patti, and half London has tried 
to gain admission tonight to see and hear for 
themselves. Added to that, Patti herself in the 
stalls. And I have to prove to London and to Patti 
that what has been said of me is true. I cannot 

Such were my thoughts and utterances as I was 
about to enter. The next day the newspapers 
stated that I seemed to be over-nervous during the 
first few minutes. Can it be doubted? Does any- 
one express surprise that it was so? Who would 
not have felt nervous and abashed in those jumpy 
1 circumstances? The house was crowded in every 
part; extra stalls had been introduced in the front 
of the house ; and at the back of the amphitheatre 
and of all the other sections was a dense crowd of 
persons who seemed content to stand throughout 
the whole performance. What a change from the 
frigid scene which had met my eyes when I first 
"walked on" only a few nights before! Society 
was there in force; diamonds sparkled in boxes 
and stalls. Dukes, marquesses, viscounts, barons 
and their ladies were pointed out to me by the 
management, who were at the pinnacle of delight 
over the size and personnel of the house. 

I was pleased to observe so many persons repre- 
sentative of rank, fashion and wealth, but there 
was one person who to me was of more interest 
than all the English nobility. She who had 
thrilled two generations from the boards of Covent 
Garden was present to hear me sing. During that 

Patti's Smile 225 

storm of applause which greeted my appearance I 
had eyes only for her. Would she bow to me? 
Would she give me any encouragement, I won- 
dered ? I saw her immediately I entered. No one 
who had seen a photograph of Patti could mistake 
that slight, charming figure attired in an exquisite 
evening dress which became her admirably. Her 
eyes, dark, beautiful and kindly, met mine. I 
bowed, and she replied with a pretty little bow 
and the sweetest smile that I have even seen on 
the face of a professional singer. It was a smile 
of welcome, of encouragement. I read in that 
smile a message which said: " Don't be afraid. I 
am here to give you my benediction, not to criti- 
cize you. Triumph again, and I shall rejoice with 
you in your triumph. " I could have taken that 
sweet " little lady" to my arms and hugged her to 
my heart for her encouragement at that supreme 

Supported by the smile of Patti, I repeated the 
part of Violetta in Traviata amid scenes of the 
wildest enthusiasm. There were very few bou- 
quets tendered me on the previous Saturday; the 
audience had not come in the expectation of find- 
ing a prima donna whom they would wish to 
honor in this way. True, many were sent to 
me at my hotel on the following Monday. But this 
second night! Everyone seemed to have brought 
flowers. They descended on me in showers. Spon 
one side of the stage was banked with blooms, and 
still they came. It was a wonderful experience. 

226 My Life of Song 

And down there in the stalls was the great Patti 
heartily joining in the torrential applause. The 
next day the Press were more enthusiastic than 
they had been on the previous Sunday and Mon- 
day, as will be seen from the following, selected 
at random from a bunch of newspaper cuttings 
dated November 8, 1907. It is an extract from the 

" Emphatic and instantaneous as was the success of 
Mme. Tetrazzini on Saturday evening, " said the 
writer, "her wonderful triumph was not made fully 
manifest until last night, when, on her second appear- 
ance as Violetta in Verdi 's familiar La Traviata, an 
audience of almost unprecedented size and enthusiasm 
was drawn to Covent Garden." 

The writer made reference to a little confusion 
which had taken place outside the opera house 
early in the afternoon. 

"Crowds began to assemble for the evening per- 
formance/' he wrote, "at the same time as those who 
were seeking admission to the usual matinee, and it 
took a great deal of management to separate the people 
into two sections. The same difficulty occurred at the 
close of the performance of Carmen, when a division 
had to be made to allow the afternoon *s audience to 
pass out of the door. 

"Before the curtain rose, a quarter of an hour 
earlier than is usual with this particular opera, the 
house presented a wonderful appearance. The usual 
society supporters were in full force in the boxes, and 
only the royal box was without an occupant. Many of 

Patti's Smile 227 

the regular habitues found themselves forestalled by 
the general public, who had quickly taken up the stalls 
and the other reserved seats. In spite of extra rows 
of stalls which had hastily been brought out from their 
summer recess, a large number of people were gladly 
content to stand. " 

"The writer then described my nervousness at 
the opening of the performance, but lie was not 
aware that the chief cause was the presence there 
of Pattt 

"At first," said the writer, "Mme. Tetrazzini, the 
heroine of the evening that will long be remembered, 
seemed a little overcome at the ordeal she had to face. 
But she is no novice although the importance of her 
success naturally affected so sensitive an artist and 
after the first few notes her magnificent voice, so bird- 
like in its absolute purity, rang out with even more 
marked a fullness and greater richness of tone. Once 
again she electrified the audience with the dramatic 
significance she infused into the famous air Ah! fors* 
e lul. There is, as is well known, a dramatic pause in 
the two sections of this number and this was seized 
upon by the .audience for a spontaneous outburst of 
applause. Mme. Tetrazzini gathered strength, as it 
were, by this slight interruption and finished the air 
with exceptional grace and abandon. Once again were 
the dramatic touches, the nervous, almost hysterical, 
restlessness by which she indicates so subtly her grow- 
ing love for Alfredo, added with a sure skill and lack 
of exaggeration. Once again did she end the song 
with a top B flat of surpassing purity, and with the 
greatest ease, making her exit in a most natural way. 
Little wonder was it that she was called and recalled 

228 My Life of Song 

until she came on at last alone to receive the warmest 
admiration that has been meted out to a newcomer 
at least within the memory of the present generation. " 

That my reception was the warmest given in 
London to any new prima donna for a generation 
was the burden of many other newspaper com- 
ments of that morning. Tlie Standard critic pro- 

" Through the next act, the excitement of the house 
settled down into a quiet appreciation. Mme. Tetraz- 
zini held her audience spellbound by the tenderness 
with which she played the moving and pathetic scene 
with her lover's father. There were tears in her voice 
when she decides to give Alfredo up, so that he may 
marry as his parents desire; and there were many 
ladies in the audience who were obviously moved by 
the real pathos of this incomparable artist's acting. 
Continuing with unabated freshness and vitality, Mme. 
Tetrazzini thrilled her hearers in the wonderfully 
effective ballroom scene, where she receives the insults 
heaped upon her by the lover whom she has so gen- 
erously released. "With all this succession of moments 
of dramatic intensity, in which the strength of her 
acting was allied to the utmost human charm of voice, 
it remained to Mme. Tetrazzini to achieve her great- 
est climax by the infinite pathos of her death scene. 
Here was the broken-down woman of the world, the 
discarded mistress, the real woman, whose sweet 
nature seemed to be unspoiled by all that she had gone 
through, revealed with consummate art. The artifi- 
ciality of the scene faded into the background, and, as 
was pointed out when dealing with her interpretation 
on the occasion of her dbut, the full strength of 

Patti's Smile 229 

Verdi's musical setting of La Dame aux Camelias was 
brought out in a way that oan only be described as a 
revelation. * 

" Nothing remains to be said of the triumph of this 
artist save that her performance literally carried the 
audience away. It was not only by the purity of her 
singing, but by the real strength of her operatic con- 
ception, at once individual and legitimately artistic, 
that her success was gained. One has often heard of 
the glorious voices of opera singers of the old days. 
It is delightful to know that a star of great magnitude 
has arrived who will not merely shed her radiance 
upon the remainder of the present season, but who will 
charm us in the future." 

TMs remarkable article concluded with the 

"Mme. Tetrazzini will sing Violetta again on Tues- 
day next, and already seats for that night are at a 
premium. Owing to arrangements made some time 
ago, she will only be able to appear in one other role, 
that of Lucia, but it is good to know that there yet 
remain eight more opportunities for the music lovers 
of London to hear during the present season a singer 
of the rarest gifts, one who combines a voice of the 
greatest natural beauty with dramatic abilities that 
mark her as a prima donna of quite exceptional merit. " 

Other newspapers gave other points which I 
may be excused for quoting to make this narrative 
more complete. 

" Nothing succeeds like success, " said the Daily 
Telegraph, which then gave this picturesque descrip- 

230 My Life of Song 

tion of the scene outside Covent Garden. "The 
Tetrazzini boom has eclipsed even the excitement 
attendant on The Christian, which is saying a good 
deal. On the day the new prima donna was announced 
to appear at Oovent Garden for the second time, the 
public, which could not afford to book seats and would 
have discovered no seats to book if they could have, 
commenced to form up on the stairs of the unreserved 
parts of the theatre before noon, armed with a mixed 
collection of refreshments combining the necessary in- 
gredients of lunch, tea and dinner. As the afternoon 
wore on, the concourse swelled to enormous propor- 
tions and the folk arriving about four o'clock plum- 
ing themselves on their early-bird instincts were 
amazed to find that their chances of obtaining admis- 
sion were hopeless. Tetrazzini has lent distinction to 
a season conducted with great pluck and enterprise." 

The Daily Mail, still adhering to the headline 
"Tlie New Patti," announced that: 

"At the early hour of two o'clock yesterday after- 
noon a little coterie of some thirty people equipped 
with camp stools was in waiting outside the gallery 
and amphitheatre doors at Covent Garden to hear the 
great Tetrazzini in La Traviata. They had six hours 
to wait, and the afternoon was chill and dismal; but 
this seemed to trouble them little. Their reward was 
great, for 'La Tetrazzini/ although nervous at the 
outset, surpassed heraelf, and sang the music of 
'Violetta' with all the brilliance and pathos for which 
she has already made herself famous. 

"The house, as was only to be expected, was literally 
packed to overflowing, but many late comers interfered 
materially with the enjoyment of the opening scenes. 
Mime. Tetrazzini 's first recitatives, therefore, passed 

Patti's Smile 231 

almost unnoticed, and it was not until she commenced 
the famous Ah! fors* e lui that the audience really 
settled down to the enjoyment of her superb singing. 
And superb it was from this point; never has a more 
exquisite rendering of the music been heard at Oovent 

" 'La Tetrazzini,' as she has come to be called, sings 
the most arduous and florid vocal passages with an 
ease and absence of effort we have rarely, if ever, 
heard equalled. The packed house listened breathless 
until the final trill on the E in alt, and then the flood 
gates were loosed. The new diva had six recalls when 
the curtain fell. For the first three she brought on 
Signor Carpi (the Alfredo) with her, but the latter 
generously recognized that the demonstration was 
Violetta's alone on this occasion, and declined to ac- 
company her after this. 'La Tetrazzini' consequently 
'took the call* alone, and was received with a veritable 
tempest of applause. 

"It fully cemented her triumph of last Saturday, 
and placed her upon the topmost pinnacle of Covent 
Garden operatic prime donne." 

Though the newspaper comments were very flat- 
tering, there was one sequel to that night's per- 
formance which was more flattering still. Early 
next morning there arrived at my hotel a little 
'billet doux. It was in the handwriting of Patti. 
In it she congratulated me upon the success of the 
performance and asked if I would be so good as to 
take lunch with her that day at the Carlton Hotel. 
Naturally I was jubilant at receiving this invita- 
tion and accepted immediately. I found that Patti 
was occupying a special suite of rooms at the hotel. 

232 My Life of Song 

She received me very graciously and was exceed- 
ingly generous in her complimentary remarks upon 
my singing. The " little lady" was neatly dressed 
in black silk and there was not even a thread of 
silver in her dark brown hair. She was very un- 
affected and yet she bore herself with a queenly 
dignity and a sweet amiableness that impressed 
me deeply. But I did draw her attention to an 
interview with her which had appeared in one 
newspaper. In that interview Patti had admitted 
that she agreed with what the Press were saying. 
I asked Patti if that interview were authentic, and 
she gladly declared that it was. She added that on 
several occasions she had heard rising artists de- 
scribed as the new Patti, but that it was only in 
my case that she had been able to agree with a de- 
scription of that nature. At that time I had not 
heard her sing, and I felt a great desire to ask her 
to go to the piano and sing for my benefit one of 
her old favorites, Gom-in' through the Eye or 
Home, Sweet Home. Yet I had not the courage to 
ask, and my great little hostess did not offer to do 
so. At this time, of course, Patti was well past 
sixty. Yet I was subsequently to hear her sing 
once before death snatched her from the world in 
which she reigned so long. Her voice, even at that 
late hour of her life, was still of exceptional power, 
sweetness and purity. I heard it with deep pleas- 
ure and deeper sorrow. To me it seemed a terrible 
tragedy that our Queen of Song was nearing the 
end of her allotted life. I still dwell on the scene 

Patti's Smile 

in the Carlton Hotel that day when I was the guest 
of Patti and some of her countless friends. I re- 
call the dignified but generous welcome she extend- 
ed me ; I remember the sweetness of her smile ; the 
genuineness of that little handshake of hers and 
our talk over her past triumphs and my triumph 
of yesterday. 

I think I was more impressed by the nobility of 
the character of the " little lady/' who was so ready 
to admit without qualification that her mantle had 
fallen on me, than I was by the flattering declara- 
tion that she had made. I left the Oarlton that day 
feeling very happy. It was the greatest day of 
my life. 

An incident that occurred, not long after this made 
me feel very sad and sick at heart. The night that 
I was singing to a crowded house in Covent Garden 
had been fixed for a concert at which Patti made 
one of her rare appearances. I felt a great desire 
to plead illness and not to appear at Oovent Garden 
that night so that I could lose myself in the audi- 
ence which would attend on Patti. Next day I 
greatly regretted not having done so, for one of 
the newspapers had vulgarly contrasted the num- 
bers present at my performance with those who 
had gone to hear Madame Patti. The article was 
to the effect that "the new Patti " was now 'a 
greater draw than the old. Dear Patti! I hope 
she never saw that article. Even if she did I think 
she was too great an artist as well as too noble a 
soul to feel hurt by it. In any case, it had an effect 

234 My Life of Song 

upon our friendship. I have many letters from 
her at my home in Rome, in each of which she 
familiarly addresses me as "My dearest Luisa." 
Patti was a frequent visitor at Oovent Garden 
during my seasons there. And whenever I caught 
her gaze she always answered with her sweet and 
appreciative smile. Sometimes she would go far- 
ther than this and would go back to her hotel and 
write me one of those impulsive and heartening 
letters which were characteristic of her. The fol- 
lowing, written in Patti 's own handwriting, in 
which she declares that my singing literally made 
her weep, I have treasured most carefully. It 
reached me on the evening of May 1, 1908, the 
day after the opening of the grand opera season 
at Covent Garden in which I had again appeared 
as Violetta in Traviata. This is the letter: 

Carlton Hotel, London, 

May 1st, 1908. 

Bravo ! Bravo ! and again Bravo! I cannot tell you 
how much pleasure it gave me to hear you last night, 
and what a joy it was to me to hear your beautiful 
Italian phrasing, and how immensely touched I was 
by the wonderful feeling and pathos of your voice. 
You made me cry in the last act. I should like also 
to add that in addition to the phenomenal brilliancy 
and purity of your high, notes, your beautiful method, 
your phrasing, the ease and flexibility of your voice 
and your acting, all gave me the very greatest pleas- 
ure, and I shall take the first opportunity of going to 
hear you again. 

Patti's Smile 235 

I heartily rejoice in your well-deserved triumph 
Bravo ! Bravo ! And again Bravo ! 
Yours sincerely, 


a wonderful letter ! At my homes in Italy 
I have countless souvenirs of my public, appear- 
ances in all parts of the world. I cherish them all. 
Each links the present with some delightful ex- 
perience of the past. I would not willingly part 
with one of these souvenirs. And the one which 
I prize most of all is this letter from my illustrious 
compatriot, Patti. Praise from a mixed audience 
is very gratifying after one has given it of her 
best. But praise, and such praise, from Patti, is 
far more than the passing pleasure of a public 
ovation. I treasure it as a peasant maid would 
treasure a 'billet doux from a Eoyal lover. It is a 
sacred missive ! 



AFTER London New York! 
To give a description of the scenes at the 
remaining eight performances at Covent 
Garden in the autumn of 1907 would be but to 
repeat what I have written of my second appear- 
ance there. Every time I appeared the house was 
crowded, and greater crowds were turned away. 
The only difference seemed to be that those who 
could not afford to book seats had to "queue up" 
earlier than ever. Instead of arriving at midday, 
they used to appear outside the opera house im- 
mediately after breakfast. On one occasion a 
little group was in position before daybreak. 

I have always sympathized with the opera queues 
and have occasionally protested to various man- 
agements against the practice, and I have yet to 
hear a satisfactory objection to advance booking 
for the gallery and other cheap parts. It may be 
a good advertisement of the talents of an artist or 
the quality of a production to compel impecunious 
persons to wait in all weathers outside a theatre 
for ten or twelve hours, but it is, to say the least, 
bad for the health of these persons of both sexes 
whose love of great art makes them despise all 


My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 237 

physical discomforts and fatigue. To most of us, 
congenial circumstances are necessary to the en- 
joyment of the arts; those who can enjoy while 
enduring always arouse in me unbounded adinira- 

When my ten operatic performances at Covent 
Garden were ended the authorities did something 
which, I am informed, they had not done before or 
since. They gave half a dozen orchestral concerts, 
at which I was the star singer. Bach of these con- 
certs was an astonishing success. There was a 
good deal of talk in the English Press that I had 
been secured for England during the next four 
years, and that, consequently, America would not 
see me during this time. Which talk was very 
far from the truth. In accordance with the new 
contract, I returned to England for the grand 
opera at Covent Garden in 1908, but later in the 
year I embarked for New York. Though an in- 
competent impresario had, some years before, at- 
tempted to secure me for the Metropolitan, nothing 
sufficiently attractive had been offered me, so this 
was my first visit as a prima donna to America's 
principal city. Before leaving England I had 
abundant evidence that I was now famous in New 
Ybrk through my work in London, but I did not 
know that I was to be regarded as a being more 
exalted than just a successful prima donna. Yet 
it was so. My advent was being eagerly awaited 
by Oscar Hammerstein and the whole opera com- 
pany and employees at the Manhattan Opera 

238 My Life of Song 

House. They were looking to me as the bringer 
of fortune to the Manhattan and all connected with 
it at a critical period in its life. Its controller, 
Mr. Oscar Hammerstein, had the makings of a 
genius, but he had many of the failings common 
to great men. He wanted to be a Napoleon in 
the realm of opera. He was not content to put his 
own opera house on a paying basis; he must go 
further and stamp under his foot any rival. Of 
the outcome of his many designs and activities, all 
interested in opera are already aware. Potential 
Napoleons whether their activities are devoted to 
vanquishing peoples or only business rivals have 
an uninspiring habit of ending their days in ob- 
scurity in St. Helena. All their achievements seem 
small when contrasted with their great failures. 
Hanrmerstein, as the world knows, was swallowed 
by his rival, the Metropolitan. Thinking to take 
London by storm, he came to England and built 
a beautiful opera theatre the London Opera 
House. Covent Garden was to be knocked out in 
a single round. But he soon found, as many an- 
other Aimerican has found, that old English insti- 
tutions do not collapse so readily. In London he 
did not even achieve the doubtful success of being 
bought out by his rival. London would not have 
Oscar Hammerstein or his beautiful opera house; 
and so the Napoleon of the opera returned to 
America and the estate agent put the " House to 
Let" notice outside his derelict theatre. What his 
artistic soul must have undergone when he learned 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 239 

that it again failed this time as a circus and 
menagerie and that it subsequently succeeded as 
a cinema, only another musical Napoleon could 
really appreciate. At the time of my arrival in 
New York, Oscar Hammerstein was suffering from 
the great popularity of Caruso. Italy's great tenor 
was the luminary at the Metropolitan, and none of 
Hammerstein 's efforts would induce him to cross 
over to the Manhattan. Caruso was drawing the 
crowds; the Manhattan was not doing so well. As 
I had been instrumental in turning an unfortunate 
Oovent G-arden season into an unqualified success, 
so, in Hammerstein 7 s opinion, I was destined to 
change the fortunes of the Manhattan. But Ham- 
merstein was soon to discover that it is one thing 
to be successful and another thing to bring about 
the downfall of a rival. 

My arrival in New York was to me, as to the 
Manhattan, an event of the first importance. A 
year ago I had reached London unheralded and un- 
known. Here it was different. I found New York 
had been aroused to fever heat over my coming. 
Whatever his failings, Hammerstein was a good 
showman. His Press agents had filled the Ameri- 
can newspapers with articles all eulogistic of my 
powers. He went farther and infused his company 
with some of his own enthusiasm for me. And so, 
when I landed in America, I found to my great 
surprise that all who had anything to do with the 
Manhattan had come down to the ship to greet me. 

"Here is Oscar Hammerstein himself, " said my 

240 My Life of Song 

own manager, as lie pointed to a dapper figure with 
pointed beard and silk hat that was hustling in my 
direction. Hammerstein came and saluted me. 
With him was Mary Garden, the famous American 
prima donna, carrying a glorious bouquet of exotic 
flowers. Near by were all the other members of 
the company. They all pressed round me, shook 
my hand, and cheered me as though I were their 
President, or at least one of their champion boxers 
or baseball players. Their excitement was not 
without some justification, for I found that the 
seats had been sold for every performance at which 
I was to sing at the Manhattan for the next three 
weeks. What was more, Oscar Hammerstein had 
achieved the dream of his life : he had induced the 
famous four hundred millionaires of New York 
who had hitherto exclusively patronized the Metro- 
politan to engage boxes and stalls at the Manhat- 
tan. I am afraid the sight of those "four hun- 
dred" in his opera house on the first night I sang 
there must have turned Hammerstein ? s head com- 
pletely. It was then that he probably first decided 
to be a Napoleon of the operatic world. He thought 
that the boom would last forever, that as he had 
been the first imtpresario to present me to New 
York, he would always be able to retain me as one 
of his " songbirds. " I really believe that he 
thought Caruso would cease to be a pull. 

As it happened, the Metropolitan was not 
crushed. Caruso sang there on different nights 
from those on which I sang at the Manhattan, with 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 241 

the result that instead of one theatre doiag well 
and the other doing badly, both Metropolitan and 
Manhattan had a prosperous season. The Manhat- 
tan did so well that Hammerstein could afford to 
pay me the $2,500 nightly stipulated in my con- 
tract. This figure I may say was fixed by myself, 
for when I was first invited to the Manhattan I 
was offered a blank sheet and told to write on it 
the amount I wanted for each performance, being 
assured that whatever I asked would be agreed to. 
And I filled in $2,500, which was nearly five times 
the amount then being paid me for singing at 
Covent Garden. This was the highest salary which 
had ever been paid in New York to a prima donna 
for a season in grand opera. Caruso at that time 
was earning, I believe, $2,000 a performance. The 
salary which Caruso received was mentioned to me 
privately at the Metropolitan Opera House some 
time after this; it was when the directors were 
giving a series of six gala performances. Gatti- 
Casazza, the director, asked me what my fee would 
be for each of these performances, and I replied 
that I should want $2,500. 

"But we are paying Caruso two thousand, " re- 
plied he. "If the great tenor knows that we pay 
you two thousand five hundred, he will want the 
same. " I held out for the figure I had named, and 
Gatti-Casazza gave way. He made one condition, 
however, which I had to agree to : that I must not 
tell Signor Caruso the actual amount I was receiv- 
ing. Whether Caruso ever did ask anyone else 

242 My Life of Song 

what I received, I cannot say. Although I saw 
much of our great tenor after those days of mine 
in New York, I ever found him as unaffected as he 
was great. Never did I hear him say an ill word 
of another member of my profession. Whenever 
I was at the Metropolitan, Caruso always came to 
the stage to see me, and invariably extended to me 
a kindly welcome. 

There is no need to give many details of those 
successful three seasons I spent with Hanxmer- 
stein. My second season with Hammerstein was 
notable in one respect. When singing in London 
I had met John McGormack, the Irish tenor with 
the G-od-given voice. I found that his rich voice 
went so well with mine that I took him back with 
me to America, and he sang with me both in New 
York and in the other big towns when the Ham- 
merstein company went on tour. The Americans 
took John McCormack to their heart, and the Irish 
tenor took to America. He has made a fortune 
here, has become naturalized, and has settled down 
in Connecticut. The voice of John McCormack is 
one of the most delightful that I have ever heard. 
It has color, tone and a ri<Sh Irish flavor which en* 
sures a ready response wherever it is heard. The 
Ameicans, to use one of their own phrases, "just 
love it" 

In writing of tenors I am reminded of a saying 
by Madame Calve, the famous Carmen, to a New 
York journalist at the time when she sang with me 
in America. "What do you think of popular 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 243 

tenors ?" asked the journalist. "They have no 
vigor, " replied Calve, speaking somewhat con- 
temptuously. "They do not put their whole soul 
into their singing. All my life I have been expect- 
ing to play with a tenor who would so lose himself 
in his part that he would throw mie over into the 
orchestra. But," she lamented, "not one has ever 
done it." 

For three years Hammerstein acted as my im- 
presario. The newspapers were always ready to 
refer to me as his "favorite songbird," his star 
of stars. They discovered that he invariably met 
me on the boat on my return from Europe, but 
that he did not take the trouble to go down to greet 
others, including Mary Garden. Notices such as 
the following were always appearing in the Ameri- 
can Press : 

"A vision in chinchilla, with turban, long 
coat and little boots, all of this fur, Tetrazzini 
Oscar Hammerstem's star of stars arrived 
on the Ounard liner Campania today. Mr. 
Hammerstein was at the dock to meet her, and 
with true Continental politeness implanted a 
resounding kiss of welcome on each cheek of 
the singer." 

In such vivid descriptive language the American 
journalists love to refer to all persons in the public 
eye. The time came when my friendship with 
Hammerstein suddenly snapped. The blame un- 

244 My Life of Song 

questionably was Ms. The directors of the Metro- 
politan Opera House bought out Hammerstein and 
thought they had bought out Tetrazzini as well. 
My contract was with Hammerstein. He wrote 
me a letter which contained the amazing news that 
Napoleon had sold himself to Wellington of the 
Metropolitan. He told me that I was to consider 
myself as under the management of the Metropoli- 
tan Opera House. The suggestion of my being 
bought and sold at the will of opera financiers was 
a bombshell. I felt very indignant and resolved 
to have none of it. I wrote back to Oscar Ham- 
merstein and told him that nothing was farther 
from my intentions than to place myself at the bid- 
ding of the Metropolitan Opera House. 1 added 
that since he had now no intention of carrying out 
the agreement he had made with me I considered 
my part of it was ended. If there were to be 
changes I would make fresh contracts with the 
persons I thought most fit for my purposes. To 
this Hammerstein replied that since I would not 
go to the Metropolitan, I was to consider myself 
as being still under his management. He said I 
was to tour the country during the coming season 
with Orville Harrold, the American tenor, and 
others. He proposed to send me an advance on my 
salary and my steamship ticket as well. My reply 
was a firm refusal. I told Hammerstein that I 
should not go on tour and should not sing under 
his management again. 
About this time several other impresarios were 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 245 

striving to secure contracts with me. Mr. Dippel, 
of the Metropolitan, finding I would not cross over 
at the dictation of Hammerstein, endeavored to 
arrange a contract with me on his own account 
while I was in London. Though I had not signed 
with this house, an announcement was made to the 
effect that I had done so, also stating that as there 
was no competition, my own salary and that of 
other opera stars would not be so high in future. 
Other conflicting announcements made at this time 
the summer of 1910 without my authority, were 
that I had made it up with Hammerstein, that I 
was going on concert tour of the United States, 
that I would never again sing in America without 
the consent either of Hammerstein or the Metro- 
politan or both. 

"A great question seems to be receiving less 
attention than it deserves, " said the San Francisco 
^Chronicle in August, 1910. "Will Tetrazzini sing 
again in America, or will she not ? Ctecar Ham- 
merstein says she won't; our own Doc Leahy says 
she will. Perhaps Tetrazzini will enlighten us!" 

There was considerable pother in the American 
newspapers at this time. Conflicting statements 
continued to appear under such headings as : "Why 
Tetrazzini Will Not Appear in Opera in New 
York," "Herr DippePs Fiat Angered Tetrazzini," 
"Tetrazzini Still Hammerstein 's Star," "Tetraz- 
zini Feels Herself Slighted," "Hammerstein and 
Leahy Both Claim Tetrazzini," "Catching a Song- 
bird for the Opera Lovers: Looks easy, but see 

246 My Life of Song 

what it takes to sign up Tetrazzini," and so on. 

Musical America wrote: "I wish. Ttetrazzini 
would sign up a contract with somebody and have 
it published in all the papers. We are getting posi- 
tively dizzy trying to find out what she is going 
to do and whom she will have for a manager next 

The truth of the situation as to Hammerstein 
I have already explained. The new position briefly 
was this: Early in May, 1910, Mr. Bippel, to- 
gether with Arthur Hammerstein, the son of the 
great Oscar, were in London. They visited me and 
drew up a contract agreeable to both parties. Then 
Mr, DippeL stated that he had no power to sign 
the contract, but must return to America to secure 
the consent of all the directors. He asked for an 
option which would give him time to go back to 
America to get this done. I gave the option. To 
my surprise, instead of getting a definite reply I 
received a number of propositions from various 
persons, none of whom had authority to sign a 
contract. When Mr. Dippel returned to London 
in July he wrote to me asking if I would see him 
as there were one or two things he wanted to say 
to me which he could not put into writing. In 
view of what had passed and the general dilatori- 
ness of the Metropolitan management, I declined 
to see him or to have anything more to do at that 
time with what was virtually a concert and operatic 
trust. My reason for defying Hammerstein also, 
and booking up with an impresario from San 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 247 

Francisco, is made plain in a spirited article which, 
published at that time in the San Francisco Argo- 
naut, was taken up and republished everywhere. 

"Tetrazzini," said the Argonaut, "is coming to sing 
in San Francisco. After five years of triumphs she is 
coming back to the threshold of her success bearing 
the world indorsements of San Francisco's opinion. 
She is coming to sing with the great Polacco combina- 
tion to sing with it only here. San Francisco con- 
sequently will have a real opera season this winter, 
with a really great prima donna, that will be a treat 
for music lovers and a chance to wear one's very best 
and have it seen. These things combined constitute 
an event. 

"So that in Tetrazzini 's coming back we are assured 
of an event we have something to look forward to. 
A grand opera season always means gaiety and fes- 
tivity, and so it is an interesting, a welcome and agree- 
able announcement but much easier to make than to 
arrive at 

"Catching songbirds for the opera lovers is no easy 
matter there are so few really, truly songbirds and 
so many opera lovers and catching this especial col- 
oratura rara avis is particularly difficult, because 
well, just because she is Tetrazzini, and being Tetraz- 
zini is swayed by so many reasons besides the potent 
money reasons. Catching gorillas in the Straits Set- 
tlements, and orchids in the tropics, and tortoises, on 
the Galapagos, is a mere trifle compared with catch- 
ing real operatic songbirds, because once captured the 
former stay caught, while the songbirds For ex- 
ample, in catching Tetrazzini it isn't just the formality 
of cabling terms and tearing the answer open to read 
* Accepted.' That isn't at all the way it's done. 

248 My Life of Song 

Tetrazzini has been out in a characteristic letter ex- 
plaining that; a somewhat wrathy letter, denying the 
assumption that she can be sold like a package of 
breakfast food, or passed from one manager to another 
along with the props and the office furniture. 

"She has labelled all the reported plans for her 
coming season as mis-statements, to say the least. 
She is NOT going to sing for Dippel in Chicago and 
Philadelphia; she is NOT going to sing for the Metro- 
politan management in New York ; she has NOT signed 
any contract with operatic managements in New York, 
Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, where they would 
like to have Tetrazzini seasons; she is quite positive 
about what she is NOT going to do and why? She is 
not at all pleased that it should be assumed her agree- 
ment with Oscar Hammerstein could be passed on to 
Gatti-Casazza of the Metropolitan management, her 
voice to be parcelled out at the pleasure of the new 
manager. She doesn't like to have things done that 
way, and she has made enough money in the past five 
years of her triumphs to indulge her whims. 

"She is not going to be engaged like a pig in a poke, 
to be featured so many times in concert and so many 
times in opera, and then be informed that instead it 
will suit the manager's convenience to have her so- 
many times in opera and so many times in concert 
instead. The Dippels, the Cas&zzas, the Khan and 
Bussells shall not presume to have everything to say 
in disposing of her. 'I will be consulted; I shall say 
what I will do,' was her fiat, and she went to London. 

"And now comes the authoritative announcement 
that she has signed with "W. H. Leahy of San Fran- 
ciscootherwise 'Our Doe' Leahy of the Tivoli, and 
Tetrazzini 's discoverer for the season of 1910-1911 
and that the first use of her consent he has made is 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 249 

to put her on for a brilliant operatic season here this 

"I'll wager she signed that contract with 'Doc* 
Leahy easily and amiably and happily, and while she 
probably held out for all the money to be got, and 
more than she'd been getting as is the way of song- 
birds she didn't make any insurmountable difficulty 
about it, PTid was amenable to reason, for that would 
be lite Tetrazzini. 

"She is a tantalizing bundle of contradictions, 
warm-hearted, praise-and-pleasure-loving, impulsive, 
and so far as business exactions go, impatient and 
irresponsible. She cherishes a great kindness for 
*Doc' Leahy because he discovered her; her career 
and what she calls her good luck started with him and 
the Tivoli in 1904 ; she has a fondness for San Fran- 
cisco and a friendship and admiration for that mag- 
netic, inspiring musician, Polacco, who was the leader 
of the Tivoli orchestra when she made her triumph 
here. All these things inclined her to listen attentively 
to 'Doc' Leahy's offer, while other operatic managers 
were awaiting her decision and it pleased her that he 
should go to London to see her, instead of cabling her. 
He had recently returned from Milan, where he had 
been making preparations for an operatic venture, 
and when he heard that Tetrazzini was 'up in the air,* 
he ferried across the Atlantic as quickly as he could, 
and put his inducements before her in London some 
ten days ago, and as enticingly as he could, while other 
managers were cabling. 

"Tetrazzini has her own pleasant memories of her 
San Francisco engagements, particularly of her fare- 
well night, which fell on Tuesday, November 7, 1905. 
She sang from the operas in which she made her suc- 
cesses Lucia, Traviata and Dinorah, and the box- 
office turned away 10,000 ticket buyers, it was claimed, 

250 My Life of Song 

and it is truth that not another person could have been 
squeezed into the theatre. Her last curtain here rang 
down on her singing the Star-Spangled Banner, with 
the audience standing and singing with her, her pure, 
bird-like tone rising sweet and clear above everything. 
"There's a rememberable thrill in memories like this, 
and Tetrazzini, I've no doubt, was swayed by it as 
well as by the advantageous and agreeable terms so 
shrewd a business man as 'Doc' Leahy would see fit 
to offer. And it is owing to these things this com- 
plicated conglomeration of persuasive influences that 
'Doc' Leahy got that coveted signature of the tem- 
peramental Luisa inscribed in the right place on his 
contract. Thus, you see, are songbirds captured, and 
not by a pinch of salt" 

Though this writer, like most American journal- 
ists, wrote with some levity as well as spirit, there 
was much that was truth in what was written. 

Then there began a legal process which soon 
developed into a cause celebre. Oscar Hammer- 
stein, hearing that I had decided to go to S ! an 
Francisco, took legal proceedings to prevent me 
from doing so. He obtained an order from the 
Courts to sequester all my luggage and valuables. 
I was told that I must not even leave New York. 
American law is very tedious. I do not remember 
half of what happened. The lawyer came and 
went, and the case dragged on. The journalists 
called to see me every day to ask what was going 
to happen next. I told them that if I were not 
permitted to sing in San Francisco in accordance 
with my agreement, rather than accept Oscar Ham- 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 251 

merstein's altered arrangements I would sing in 
the streets of New York. "I have to live some- 
how, " I explained to them. 

"But would you really sing in the streets in 
Broadway, for instance V 9 they asked. 

"Indeed I would I" 

"But you are a Hammerstein star. You cannot 
afford to do that. " 

"I am no longer a Hammerstein star," I re- 
torted, "and I can't spend all my time living in 
expensive New York hotels paying lawyers' bills 
without drawing in some money. And nobody in 
New York can or shall prevent Tietrazzini from 
opening her mouth," 

Interviews in this vein were frequently appear- 
ing in the American Press, with the result that I 
obtained the biggest free advertisement ever given 
to a prima donna, not excepting Fatti or Jenny 

I did not find it necessary to sing in the streets 
of New York. A break in the clouds came in the 
shape of a new order by the Courts which gave me 
permission to leave New York and to take away my 
possessions on condition that I deposited $30,000 
with the legal authorities. If the protracted legal 
proceedings ultimately resulted in my favor, I 
was to get the money back; if in favor of Hammer- 
stein, he would get it. I never saw that money 
again; it went into Hammerstein 's pocket, which 
at this time was swollen with the monies paid to 
himi by the Metropolitan Opera House. This 

252 My Life of Song 

$30,000 of mine, with $970,000 more, was sunk in 
the unfortunate London Opera House and lost. 

Though Hammerstein secured $30,000 of my 
earnings, I do not think I was a loser in the end. 
The advertisement which the case brought me was 
worth far more than the money I lost. I estimate 
the value of the tremendous publicity occasioned 
by that case at about $500,000. When I reached 
San Francisco the journalists there swarmed to 
where I was staying. They all wanted to know 
whether I was in earnest in saying that I would 
sing in the streets. I laughingly replied that I 
was. So the city authorities met and decided to 
ask me to sing in the big public square in the 
centre of the town on Christmas Eve, in aid of 
local charities. I agreed to their request, and there 
took place the biggest open-air concert, so it was 
stated, that has ever been held. The number of 
persons present was estimated at being almost a 
quarter of a million. All the shops had been shut 
at nine o'clock to allow of everybody's being pres- 
ent, and everyone in the city seemed to be there 
that night. Never in my life have I seen such a 
vast congregation. I stood on a raised dais and 
looked out on a great multitude of people who, 
standing shoulder to shoulder, their faces up- 
turned, stretched away until they became blurred 
and lost to my view. The windows of all the houses 
were thrown open, and I could see heads and shoul- 
ders leaning out. All were anxious to participate 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 253 

in the greatest concert San Francisco pr the world 
had ever seen. 

A colonel in the American Army was there with 
his regiment, his duty being to assist in maintain- 
ing order. During the proceedings the colonel 
came up to me and said: "Madame Tetrazzini, I 
do not know your language, but I will speak to 
you in the language that all the world under- 
stands." With that he took my fingers, bent his 
head, and implanted a kiss on my hand. That 
colonel, then unknown, has now a world reputation. 
I read of him and the exploits of the American 
army during the Great War. He was no longer 
a colonel; he had become G-eneral Pershing, Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the United States Army in 

A very large sum was collected for the poor at 
this concert. The city authorities were delighted 
at its success. One result was that they presented 
me with the freedom of the city, an honor which 
has been conferred on me by many other towns 
during my career. In the centre of this square 
there is a fountain, and on a column by this foun- 
tain there has been placed a bust of myself, which 
bears this inscription: "Here in 1910 Tetrazzini 
sang for the poor." 

My concert on that Christmas Eve established a 
precedent. Every year since that time there has 
been held an open-air Christmas Eve concert 
in aid of San Francisco's poor. Wherever I hap- 
pen to be at that time, I send a telegram to tbe 

254 My Life of Song 

mayor of the town offering himi my best wishes for 
the success. of the event. Within a few days I 
receive from the mayor a letter telling me what has 
happened in the old familiar square. Needless to 
say, I anticipate this letter with great eagerness 
and read it before any of my other correspondence 
on the day that it arrives. 

And Oscar Hannnerstein? I am sorry to have 
to say that we did not resume friendly relations; 
but a long time after the Tetrazzini-Hammerstein 
case had ended I heard through a mutual friend 
that the impresario would have been willing to re- 
turn to me the $30,000 if he could again become 
my manager. When I was on the high seas, re- 
turning to America, he died, and so he did not get 
the opportunity of again becoming my good friend. 
I do not bear malice to anyone, even if they go to 
the extreme length of suing me in the courts. Had 
Hammerstein come to me and asked me to wipe out 
the past, I shoulfl have done it quite readily. I 
should not have accepted the $30,000 for myself, 
but I should probably have insisted that he gave 
it to some deserving cause, as I felt he was not 
entitled to benefit from a loss by a woman who was 
earning her living with her voice. On the whole, 
I feel more sorry for than angry with Hammer- 
stein. Unquestionably he was a very big impre- 
sario. His ideas were fine, but some were im- 
possible. He made the colossal mistake of allow- 
ing his clear vision to be clouded by the desire to 
triumph over all others. He had the true artistic 

My Classic Fight With Hammerstein 255 

spirit, and if lie had devoted himself solely to the 
furtherance of operatic art he might have accom- 
plished great things. His disasters were due to his 
desire to be a god. When will men learn that only 
the humble can hope to become truly great ? It is 
a big thing to build opera houses and to give rep- 
resentations of all the great works of the greatest 
composers ; but it is a poor and mean undertaking 
to set out with the avowed object of crushing those 
already performing this uplifting work to the best 
of their ability. Musical Napoleons are no more 
necessary than Napoleons who would rule empires. 
The world wants music to charm and soothe away 
its cares, not impresarios seeking to be gods. 



SEVERAL years before I first sang at the Man- 
hattan Opera House I met Heinrich Conreid, 
of the Metropolitan Opera House, at the time 
when the Metropolitan, as now, was the Mecca of 
all American music lovers and the goal of every 
international artist. Conreid made me an offer, 
and I agreed to sing for him. Two copies were 
made of the contract, one in English, and the other 
in French. 

I found later that there was a discrepancy be- 
tween the figures appearing in these two docu- 
mentshow it came about I do not suggest but 
the result, was that I decided not to go to the 
Metropolitan, but to accept an offer to sing in San 
Francisco. When the time came for me to sing in 
San Francisco, Mr. Conreid attempted to prevent 
me, and sought an injunction in the courts at this 
town. The judge, I remember, stated that he had 
bought a box to hear me sing that night, and then, 
I am glad to say, gave a ruling in my favor. 

When I made my debut at the Manhattan many 
of the newspapers criticized Conreid for letting me 
slip through his fingers. I have a copy of the 
Kcmsas City Star, which said : 


Welcomed at the White House 257 

"Two years later Tetrazzini stood before an 
audience of five thousand persons in New York, 
the object of a demonstration such as has rarely 
been accorded an artist on any stage in that city. 
The walls of Hammer stein's opera house fairly 
shook. The voices of five thousand persons joined 
in tumultous ' Bravos. ' Twelve rounds of applause 
brought her before the curtain as many times after 
the first act of Traviata. At the conclusion of the 
second act the house was on its feet. Up and down 
went the Hammerstein curtain in ten minutes of 
cheering and uproar. On this night which wit- 
nessed the Tetrazzini success in New York few 
thought of the two men who had made the one his 
best and the other his worst guess : one misjudged 
an artist two years before ; the other, Oscar Ham- 
merstein, was sitting in the wings thinking of how, 
by a wise stroke of business policy, he had bought 
success for his grand opera venture. There were 
thirteen thousand real dollars in the box-office, 
representing one night's receipts, and he, Ham- 
merstein, of the funny silk hat and the wide, flat 
feet, was resting serenely on the assurance of the 
many thousands more that were yet to come." 

When I returned to New York in 1909 for my 
second season with Hammerstein at the Manhattan, 
I had a reception which for enthusiasm equalled 
all that had been proffered when I first sang to 
New York in 1908. "All the wealth of enthusi- 
asm," said the Evening Telegram, "and babel of 
acclaim that have greeted Madame Tetrazzini in 

258 My Life of Song 

the past were a part of the spectacular show last 
evening at the Manhattan Opera House. She sang 
in Traviata. It would scarcely be necessary, ex- 
cept as a matter of historical record, to say that it 
was an Italian night. The first outburst of greet- 
ing was freighted with comradeship, and it seemed 
that not less than four-fifths of the audience were 
bent on telling the smiling little woman just how 
happy they all were that she was with them again. 
Up where the true lovers sit below the arches of 
the dome, Italy prostrated itself at the feet of the 
silvery-voiced songstress, and intermingled steady 
murmurs of approval with the ejaculatory and 
hungry tus whenever opportunity offered. No 
queen ever was served more loyally than Tetraz- 
zini by the lords and ladies of the true lovers." 

True lovers of opera, as the writer aptly de- 
scribed my compatriots, would appear in force in 
every one of the houses at which I sang in America. 
How glad I was to see themi they all knew. If I 
recognized as I frequently did a band of 
Italians, I always gave them a special bow of 
greeting. For even in hospitable America were 
we not all strangers in a strange land? I have 
many a pleasant recollection of meetings with my 
compatriots in that great Union of states. Per- 
haps some went too far in their "hero worship." 
They wrote me letters long, effusive letters- 
couched in the language they might have used in 
addressing a monarch. Some of my compatriots 
would allow their appreciation of my singing to 

Welcomed at the White House 259 

overbalance their sense of fair play, and refuse 
to hear, or would even hiss, other artists who ap,- 
peared in the same programme with me. Occa- 
sionally I had to appeal to my too zealous com- 
patriots to give fair play to all, for, I said, they 
were all giving of their best, and deserved appre- 
ciation and encouragement, not hoots and hisses. 

In Italy I know it is the custom to treat a medi- 
ocre singer with scant courtesy and sometimes hiss 
Mm, and even her, off the stage. I am thankful 
that I was never compelled to endure that kind of 
reception, but my heart has often ached for those 
unfortunate artists who have been so treated. To 
sing to a poor house is punishment sufficient, if 
punishment is at all necessary, without adding to 
an artist's misery by vulgar abuse. No singer is 
ever hooted off the concert or operatic platform in 
England, and for the sake of our great profession 
and my country, which produces so many compos- 
ers and singers, I hope this mean practice will 
soon die out in my beloved homeland. 

When I was in Venice on holiday I enjoyed 
yes, enjoyed the sensation of being nearly hissed! 
I met a young acquaintance, a girl who was playing 
a small part in a comic opera which was then be- 
ing given in this city. Her role was that of a 
stage-struck girl who, trying to sing in opera, sings 
so badly that the public hiss her off the stage. My 
girl friend was admirably suited to the part, for 
she had a very feeble voice. Unfortunately, the 
audience objected to her singing off the key, al- 

260 My Life of Song 

though the author's instructions were that she had 
to do so. The poor young actress needed money 
very badly and was in ill health. She was in a 
dilemma. If she appeared, the audience would be 
infuriated by her ; if she did not, she would starve. 

" Don't worry. I'll sing for you for the three 
evenings they want to give that play/' I said to 
her. "You pretend to sing, but don't make a 
sound. I will go behind the scenes and sing, and 
no one in the audience will know." My only diffi- 
culty was that I did not want anyone else connected 
with the theatre to know my identity, so we, my 
girl friend and I, concocted a pretty story. I was 
to pose as a young Russian whose family objected 
to her going on the stage, and I was supposed to 
be unable to speak more than a little Italian. The 
arrangements were made, and I went to the re- 
hearsal in my oldest clothes, wearing a thick veil. 
Nobody paid me any attention until I began to 
sing, and then they all crowded round m:e in great 
excitement. But I couldn't talk to them, as I spoke 
so little Italian. 

The evening of the first performance came, and 
I sang the big aria from the first act of II Trova- 
tore only I sang it as I was accustomed to sing it, 
and did not go off the key. The time came when the 
old father in the play had to exclaim: "Oh, my 
child, my child; they are hissing her!" But the 
stage public had become so entranced with the way 
I sang this air that they forgot their part which 

Welcomed at the White House 261 

was to Mss. Not so the old man. When they did 
not act on his lines, he began to repeat them: 

"Oh, my child " 

"Oh, shut up! Shut up!" 

The real public had asserted themselves. Some 
of them were standing up making angry signs to 
the old man to cease interrupting. The old man 
sat down, looking surprised and cowed. I con- 
tinued singing. At the close of the aria, when the 
trio comes in, the other two actors forgot even to 
try to sing, so I sang the trio alone. At the end 
there was frantic applause, and all the artists went 
out to bow, to the real public, the supposed singer 
among them; but the audience were not so readily 

"No, no!" they shouted. "We want the real 
prima donna!" 

The embarrassed manager came to me and made 
signs to show that I must go out. This was a de- 
velopment against which I had made no provision, 
and I tried to hurry off by the wings. But the 
manager barred my passage and, taking mte by the 
hand, led me to the front. Even though I still 
wore my veil, I felt certain that someone present 
would recognize me and startle the building by 
shouting "Tetrazzini." The audience did shout, 
but not my name. They shouted to me to remove 
my veil, and, there being no way of escape, I had 
to obey. . Wonder of wonders! There was no one 
present who had ever seen me or heard me sing 

262 My Life of Song 

This scene was repeated on the succeeding and 
final nights, and no one detected that the unknown 
Russian singer was the well-known Tetrazzini. It 
is true that the author complained to the manager, 
his brother, that I wasn't true at all to his comedy 
a remark that might also apply to me when sing- 
ing certain operas, for I like to improvise when I 
see an opportunity. The author of this comedy had 
insisted that the girl must sing badly, must get off 
the key, and must be hissed by the stage public. 
But the author was not supported in his complaint 
by his brother, the manager, who only replied: 
"Look at the box-office receipts ; the public flock to 
my theatre, which has had a unique and cheap 

The talented young Russian was obliged to leave 
the stage of this Venetian playhouse after those 
three performances, and disappeared from the 
town. A droll sequel came several years later 
when I was singing in Buenos Aires. In the prin- 
cipal of the South American theatre I at once rec- 
ognized the manager of the Venetian comedy the- 
atre. It was not surprising that he failed at first 
to know in the prima donna named Tetrazzini the 
mysterious Russian debutante who had caused a 
minor commotion in his Venetian playhouse; but 
a few days after we had begun rehearsals he came 
up to me in a puzzled manner and said: 

"I feel sure that I have met you somewhere 
perhaps a long time ago. It wasn't in Buenos 
Alires; it m!ay have been in Italy. And I seem to 

Welcomed at the White House 263 

recall that the circumstances of our meeting were 
unusual, though not unpleasant. Am I right? 
Have I met you before, signora?" 

' ' You have, ' ' I replied, laughing heartily. " And 
what is more, I have sung as one of your artists in 
your theatre in Venice. " 

With that he seemed still more mystified. ' ' Tet- 
razzini, Tetrazzini; I am sure I have never had 

the honor " He stopped and looked at me 

curiously for a moment, and then suddenly burst 
forth with: "Good heavens! Can it really be 
true? Were you that mysterious Russian who sang 
my brother's comedy and disappeared in as strange 
a way as you came?" 

"Ties, I was." 

"And to think that I never recognized you ! Oh, 
what a joke. No wonder we had to turn the people 
away. ' ' Then, speaking very sorrowfully, he said : 
* i But what a pity. If we had only known we would 
have trebled the prices." 

The night of November 10, 1909, I well renum- 
ber, for it was then that I introduced John Mc- 
Cormack to New York. I have already mentioned 
how impressed I had been with his glorious voice 
when he sang with we at Covent Garden, and I 
was greatly pleased, as well as amused, when I read 
some of the newspaper accounts of his debut im 
New York. "That Mr. McCormack is a decided 
acquisition to the company is undoubted," said the 
New York Evening Post. "He is a pure lyric* 
tenor, with a carefully trained voice ; pure, clear. 

264 My Life of Song 

even and flexible, and naturally placed. His tones 
were always true and sympathetic, and Ms mezzo* 
voce was most effective. At the outset, in addition 
to Ms apparent physical suffering, he was palpably 
nervous, but Madame Tetrazzini came to his rescue 
by crossing the stage and giving him a gentle pat 
of encouragement." 

The New York Times added : " He immediately 
became popular with the audience, and Madame 
Tetrazzini insisted on his sharing all her calls after 
the first act." 

The Record, of December 8, 1909, also wrote 
humorously on the event: "That Tetrazzini fully 
realizes his exceptional ability and delights in 
singing with him is evidenced in the persistent 
manner in which she insists upon his assuming his 
burden of applause. Last night Tetrazzini liter- 
ally dragged the hero forth." 

John McCormack, Sammarco and I went on tour 
through America, singing at most of the big towns, 
under the management of Hammerstein. During 
that tour and subsequently many of the audience 
were completely deceived by my coughing while 
playing the part of the tubercular Violetta. Many 
went away from the opera house in the belief that 
I was actually ill, for they argued that no singer 
who had any thought of her voice would take such 
liberties with her throat and chest. Said the Eve- 
ning Mail: " Tetrazzini insists upon an incessant 
cough, which degree of realism never fails to bring 
the sympathy of the audience j but this synogpathy 

Welcomed at the White House 265 

is for the singer Tetrazzini, not for Her tubercular 

"As usual, the singer accomplished all kinds of 
wonderful things with her voice, " said the PMlar 
delphia Press. "She took the high notes beauti- 
fully, and gave her trills and runs as easily as a 
bird. . - . . She is able to make believe that she 
is French, that she is consumptive, and almost that 
she is thin, though obviously and to the naked eye 
she is none of these. But from the moment that 
she runs across the stage at her first appearance 
until she falls dead at the end she is always in the 
character.' 7 

The American newspapers, unlike the English 
Press, were not reluctant to comment upon my 
figure. Another Philadelphia newspaper thought 
it proper to describe my Violetta thus: "Of 
course, Tetrazzini did not die of a wasting con- 
sumption; but she entered into the pathetic spirit 
of the last act like an artist, and no heartless mon- 
ster in the gallery dared call out, as they did for 
the original Violetta in Italy : ' Where is your con- 
sumption f I see only dropsy, ' because the creator 
of Violetta happened to be very stout and forgot 
to go into training when she studied the role/' 

The secret of how I was able to look this part to 
perfection was discovered (so it professed) by the 
Brooklyn Eagle, which announced that "the diva 
was encased in what looked like a suit of armor, 
over which was a gown heavily weighted down with 

266 My Life of Song 

spangles to such an extent as to make it somewhat 
difficult of manipulation, " 

The proportions of most public persons in Amer- 
ica, I found to my surprise, are brazenly referred 
to in the public Press of the IMted States. I was 
never what the English people call thin-skinned, 
but I know of prime donne, as well as tenors and 
baritones, whose feelings have been deeply hurt by 
the candid references to their size, their height, 
or their want of it. I observed, at first almost with 
a shock, the irreverent remarks which the Ameri- 
can newspapers used to make about their delightful 
President Taft, a man of ample proportions. It 
was not long after I had met the President that 
there appeared in the American newspapers arti- 
cles with glaring headlines carried right across the 
page announcing that : 


Apparently in one of the interviews I had given 
to a newspaper representative I had, without think- 
ing, admitted that he looked plump and jolly. 
Soon after that the following irreverent article 
appeared in the New York Morning Telegraph: 
" Tranquil people simply have to be fat There is 
absolutely no getting away from it it means flesh. 
This is said seriously, because it was spoken by 
one having authority, fleshly authority, and mental 
jurisdiction over such an obvious point as avoir- 

Welcomed at the White House 267 

dupois. Why argue? Why dispute? If peace of 
mind is a worthy attribute and a nice thing to have 
in one's social assets, then let lesser minds fuss 
with diets and weighing machines and obesity 
cures. On with the tissue and tranquility. That 
is all very good for a preface now for a substan- 
tiation of the fatty charm of mind and manner. 

" Madame Tetrazzini is talking of her latest dis- 
covery, President Taft. She doesn't want to think 
of anything but the days she spent in Washington. 

" 'Mr. Taft is a grande papa/ said she, 'He is 
so tranquil, and, yes, he has a big pod what you 
say, stomach? If he were nervous he would not 
be like that. He is successful, and he can be com- 
fortable and fat. He has no nerves, so he just 
smiles, and shuts his eyes so, and he loves the music 
so, and he claps his hands so. Oh, he is a beautiful 
grmde papa one fine American. I never sang 
with so much joy before. I forgot Pittsburgh 
my nose aches when I speak of it. I only saw him 
and sang to him, and he shook my two hands and 
was very happy. I am glad he is fat. It is a 
pleasure to sing to him." 

"I am not," the writer coolly admits, "depend- 
ing on my Italian for this eulogistic understanding 
of Mr. Taft. Madame Tetrazzini ? s interpreter 
Miss Lathrop helped a lot. I knew what the 
<OhV and the 'So V meant, and I never doubted, 
by the twitch she gave her nose, what Pittsburgh 
meant (the dust in the air of the great steel- 
producing city) . In things of this sort, in which 

268 My Life of Song 

is concerned the weights of men and women, it is 
wise, it is best, and, furthermore, it is necessary 
to be authentic. This refreshing view of the physi- 
cal side of the Chief Executive was detailed to me 
at the big hired house of the Italian wonder-singer 
in West End Avenue/' 

When that article was read to me, I laughed out- 
right, for what was lacking in accuracy was bal- 
anced by the writer's rich sense of humor. "But 
what will the President think when he sees this 
article?" I asked myself. The President saw the 
article and read it through, for it was copied by 
many other newspapers. The next time I saw the 
President he laughingly chided me for holding him 
up to public ridicule, but he admitted that he en- 
joyed the article as much as I did. 

Newspaper references to the fact that I was not 
too slim were often made during my annual visits 
to the United States, I saw them on the occasion 
of my farewell tour in the winter of 1920-21. The 
Evening Public Ledger, of Philadelphiathis 
town is particularly interested in the size and 
avoirdupois of visiting prime donne published a 
photograph of me, and boldly headed it: 


Underneath was the following: 

"Tetrazzini, of course. The great singer was 
photographed today in her suite at the Bellevue- 
Stratf ord, after she had uttered words of consola- 

Welcomed at the White House 269 

tion for stout women. " Then came the following 
typical Americanisms in the form of headlines : 


"Now, listen, you ladies who wear out-sizes, " the 
article began, "and be proud of your plumpness. 
'Some people are born to be thin/ said the great 
Tetrazzini today, 'others to be fat. I belong to the 
latter class. And I'm not the least ashamed of it. 
Why should I be? But see! It is not fat after all/ 
Here the soprano showed an astounding forearm. 
She had not exaggerated. The finest athlete in the 
world would have been proud to own the muscle 
and sinew displayed. 'Hard as nails ' was the only 
good description. Madame Tetrazzini began to in- 
hale very slowly, standing erect with her head 
thrown back. Tie visitor was amazed at the won- 
derful chest expansion which Madame Tetrazzini 
so easily accomplished. Tetrazzini said she exer- 
cised every morning faithfully, and gave a sample 
of her getting-up exercises. 

" 'I roll, too, all round the floor of my room, 5 she 
said, though this time she did not demonstrate. 
'But outside, at the automobile or on the horse, I 
do not exercise. It would be bad for my voice; I 
would get overheated, and then catch cold. No, but 
indoors I do everything to keep myself in good con- 

270 My Life of Song 

dition. I believe the cure for almost eveiything, 
great and small, almost every ill there is, is to 
breathe deep, from the bottom of the chest, like 

"Madam'e Tetrazzini is the living proof of the 
effilcacy of her advice. She looks in the pink of 
condition, and she is very happy and full of spirits. 
'But, oh, that prohibition !' " 

I have many happy memories of President Taf t 
other than the incident that I have already nar- 
rated. When I first visited Washington I was 
invited to the White House to see the big Presi- 
dent. Rising from his seat, he shook hands and, 
smiling broadly, told me that he had heard me sing 
all the famous arias in my extensive repertoire. 
"Audi where have you heard me sing, Mr, Presi- 
dent? Have you been attending my perform- 
ances incognito ?" 

"Oh, no," he laughed. "Would that I had the 
time to do it. The explanation is much more sim- 
ple. The White House has a magnificent talking 
machine, and I have added all your records, " 

During my stay in Washington the President 
organized a special gala performance, and invited 
all the ambassadors and foreign ministers and 
plenipotentiaries then in Washington to be present. 
It was an impressive evening. Ail the members of 
the diplomatic body, with the sole exception of the 
Italian Ambassador, were present. The President 
afterward apologized to me for the unavoidable 
absence of the representative of my own country. 

Welcomed at the White House 271 

When I first met the President he told me that his 
favorite song was the "Polonaise" from Mignon, 
and that he used to have it sung to him almost daily 
by the White House machine. The President was 
present nearly every night we were playing in 
Washington, and so I sang "Polonaise" on each 
occasion in his honor. One of the operas that we 
gave at Washington, as I have mentioned earlier 
in this book, was The Daughter of the Regiment. 

What was happening in the political and musical 
world at Washington at that time was mentioned 
thus in the Philadelphia Item : "Madame Tetraz- 
zini made a hit with President Taf t yesterday when 
she told him she knew of his fondness for the bril- 
liant ' Polonaise' from Mignon. She made a far 
greater hit last night, when, at the end of The 
Daughter of the Regiment, in the Belasco Theatre, 
she sang the ' Polonaise' for the President's special 
benefit. President Taf t greeted her cordially and 
conversed with her for some time in Spanish. Near 
the end of the interview the prima donna asked in 
English: 'You come tonight?' 

" 'My dear woman,' the President is quoted as 
saying, 'a dozen Cabinet meetings would not keep 
me away. ' After Madame Tetrazzini had promised 
to sing the 'Polonaise' for him that night, a tele- 
gram was sent to New York for the orchestral 
score, which arrived in time for the performance. 
After The Daughter of the Regiment, which! 
marked Madame Tetrazzini 's third appearance 
here this week, the prima donna again appeared 

272 My Life of Song 

to sing the ' Polonaise.' The President and Mrs. 
Taft were plainly pleased when the orchestra 
played the opening strains, and the audience, which 
had not been let into the secret, enthusiastically 
applauded. Madame Tetrazzini sang delightfully, 
and one of the foreign diplomats said, 'I have never 
heard the " Polonaise " so well sung.' The Presi- 
dent sent Madame Tetrazzini some beautiful flow- 
ers from the conservatories at the White House." 
More of the newspapers turned their humorous 
journalists to writing up Taft and me. Here is 
an extract from the New York Herald: 



A headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer announced 



Underneath was a description which stated that 
"The President met her with both hands ex- 
tended/ ' 

On the morning of my last day in Washington I 
called at the White House to say good-bye to Mr. 
and Mrs. Taft. To please the wife of the Presi- 

Welcomed at the White House 273 

dent, I sang a few ;songs. As I was leaving, the 
President, bluff and large-hearted as he was physi- 
cally great, brought to me an autographed photo- 
graph of himself which he said was "in remem- 
brance of ' Polonaise.' " At the last matinee there 
arrived on the stage a messenger in an imposing 
uniform, which the public immediately recognized 
as that of an emissary of the President. I could 
see by the effect on the audience that he represent- 
ed someone of considerable importance. The mes- 
senger read publicly a message from the President 
thanking me and my company for our services. 

The old, old story told of everyone who has 
shaken hands with a renowned personage it has 
been told of persons who have shaken hands with 
me was told of me following my shaking hands 
with President Taft. Some time after leaving 
Washington I found myself at St. Louis, where 
the Post Dispatch informed the natives that: 
"They say the singer has a superstition about one 
of her hands the one President Taft shook. The 
superstition is that one should never wash that 
hand again. Tetrazzini's right hand looks all 
right, though she exchanged hands with Taft last 
April (nine months ago) . ' Why, of course Tetraz- 
zini washes both her hands/ said the hotel clerk. 
'What would Tetrazzini do with a marble bathtub 
if she only washed one hand?' " 

I have the greatest regard for ex-President T&ft. 
He impressed me as being one of the great gentle- 
men of the world. I somehow always associate him 

274 My Life of Song 

with, that other bluff and popular ruler who was 
loved by all who knew him, the late King Edward 
VII. Taft was so chivalrous and lent so much 
dignity to his great office. I was amused at one 
thing he told me. "I have no children/' said he, 
"or I should probably have named one of them 
Tetrazzini. All I have is a little dog, which I have 
christened with your surname." While he spoke, 
Taft's little four-legged Tetrazzini stood by wag- 
ging its tail. 

The later American President, Mr. Woodrow 
Wilson, did not show such keen interest in my 
singing as his predecessor. I did not mind that, 
but I was very much offended at something he once 
wrote to the effect that he preferred the Chinese 
to the Italians. Despite that, I decided to invite 
both him and Mrs. Wilson to my concert in Paris 
at the time of the Peace Conference. Mr. Wilson 
wrote back regretting that as he had previously 
arranged to visit (I think) the battlefields on that 
date, he could not be present. But Mrs. Wilson 

Of the thousands of interesting experiences 
through which I have gone during my early tours 
of America, I can remember but a few. The pro- 
prietor of the hotel at which I stayed at Buffalo 
was so eager to please me that when I commented 
on the smallness of one of the rooms allotted me, 
he immediately brought in carpenters and masons, 
and, taking down partitions, made several moder- 
ate-sized rooms into one suggestive of a ballroom! 

Welcomed at the White House 275 

One day I sang over the telephone to a little girl 
who was too ill to attend the opera. This incident 
caused a big stir. The Ainerican Press stated that 
the telephone girl heard of my intention, and she 
told a few other girls to " listen in," and that by 
the time I began a large audience was waiting at 
telephones all over New York to hear me sing the 
mad scene from Lucia. Just then there were more 
" engaged " wires than usual in New York, and 
these, said the Press, "remained engaged until the 
last of the trills, runs and pyrotechnical cadenzas 
had passed into memory," 

But the Kansas City Post, instead of publishing 
this story, elected to be sceptical, and declared that 
" Madame Tetrazzini has a Press agent who de- 
serves a severe calling down. He has taken liber- 
ties with a story that has been told the same way 
for twenty-five years and has been laid at the door 
of every great singer in the world. By slightly 
altering the tale so as to make it appear new, per- 
hapshe has spoiled it. That isn't the way to tell 
a story. Nobody would sing that scene to a sick 
woman. Here is the way," says the dictatorial 
writer, "to tell it, the way it has always been told: 
'A prominent society woman, a friend of Tetraz- 
zini, got into a dispute with her friend as to the 
words of an old folk-song, a lullaby. She called 
up Madame, who graciously sang it into the 'phone 
from start to finish. At the same time a call came 
in notifying the telephone girl that her aunt was 
dying of a combination of lumbago and liver com- 

276 My Life of Song 

plaint. She immediately plugged on the sick room 
with the singer's apartments at St. Begis. The 
dying woman, listening to the sweetest music she 
had ever heard, took a new grip on life.' The 
Press agent who tries to invent a new story takes 
his reputation in his hands. The old ones are the 
safest and best" 



THESE chronicles of "My Life of Song" 
would be incomplete if they contained only 
references to the gay scenes, the pleasant ex- 
periences, the public triumphs, the true friends. 
"If you possess something which no one else has 
got and which everyone would love to have get 
ready for trouble/ ' I have often thought of this 
sage proverb when the worst that there is in some 
of my fellow-creatures has stirred them to active 
hostility toward myself. If you are in the I had 
almost written "happy" position of being among 
the obscure inhabitants of the earth, you will have 
few or no enemies. But as sure as night follows 
day, as you rise out of your obscurity you will 
make enemies ; and the higher that you climb, the 
[bigger the circle who know you or your name, so 
the number of those who would do you some kind 
of injury, more or less grievous, will increase. I 
do not wish to write in a spirit of bitterness; I 
merely narrate a few facts from my own experi- 

There are members of my own profession, some 
my own compatriots now living in Italy, who are 
so jealous of the pinnacle to which my voice has 


278 My Life of Song 

carried me that they would, I know, secretly re- 
joice to learn of my downfall. What would most 
please these envious enemies would be to hear that 
my voice had gone. As everyone knows, the 
haunting dread at the back of the mind of every 
great singer is that one day he or she will awake 
to discover that his or her voice has fled never to 
return. Those who have seen that remarkable play, 
The Great Lover, have had that sombre aspect of a 
famed singer's life revealed to them with dramatic 
emphasis, for in that play they see "the Great 
Lover," the adored tenor, collapse in his dressing- 
room when he finds that his voice has vanished, 
apparently for all time. His reign over the realm 
of song has suddenly ended. Another takes his 
place and his crown. 

A malicious attempt to anticipate an event akin 
to this in my own life was made in 1920. I was 
then on my way home to Italy, having completed 
yet one more of my annual tours through the 
United States. The liner on which I was then a 
passenger was the President Wilson. We had 
reached mid-Atantic, where it was impossible for 
me to issue the contradiction which became neces- 
sary in view of what then happened. I was seated 
in my cabin when a friend hurried in with a copy 
of the wireless newspaper which, was p\iblished 
every day on board the ship. In it was the fol- 
lowing astounding message received that day by 
wireless from Paris : 

"Tetra&zini seriously ill in Paris. It is reported 

Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 279 

that she has lost her voice, and will not J)e able to 
sing again" 

I felt both amazed and apprehensive when the 
contents of this bulletin was made known to me. I 
knew that what was being printed on my own liner 
was being printed on other liners and was appear- 
ing in the English and American newspapers. The 
damage that I might suffer from an announcement 
of this nature was incalculable. Within a few 
hours all who had ever heard the name Tetrazzini 
would be under the impression that I should never 
again be able to sing in public, and that if I did it 
would not be the old Tetrazzini voice that they 
would hear. And the person who inspired that 
damaging message? What was that person's ob- 
ject? Surely it must have been to crush Tetraz- 
zini. If not, so to damage her name that she would 
never recover her popularity. I can imagine the 
inspirer of that libellous message chuckling and 
saying: "When that gets round the world the 
public will no longer wish to hear her sing. Tet- 
razzini 's hour is over." To this day I do not know 
who was the person who actually inspired that 
cruel message. I can say, however, that I lost no 
time in trying to overtake and nullify the evil 
effects of the apparently malicious falsehood that 
had been circulated broadcast concerning me. 

When the other passengers on the President 
Wilson read this message they also came to my 
room and inquired as to the meaning of it. 

"Are you really Tetrazzini, or only her spirit ?" 

280 My Life of Song 

they asked. "If you are only her spirit, why are 
you here ? Has the real Tetrazzini passed away in 

My answer was a practical one. "I don't know 
who the unfortunate lady is who is ill in Paris," I 
said; "but I do know that I can soon prove to you 
that the real Tetrazzini is on the President WU- 
son." With that I sang them a few arias from my 
repertoire. When they had heard these they 
crowded round, and one said, "If spirits can all 
sing like you, we prefer spirits to human beings," 
and another laughingly added that, while I was the 
most red-blooded and human spirit that had ever 
existed, I nevertheless had a voice which might 
conceivably belong to a member of the Celestial 

It was because of this detrimental cablegram 
that I visited London in October, 1920, to give one 
concert, and only one, so that all London might 
know that I had not been ill and that my voice 
was unimpaired. The ten thousand Londoners who 
gathered in the Royal Albert Hall that Sunday 
afternoon soon demonstrated that I had disproved 
what had been said about me, and from what others 
wrote me and what was published in the news- 
papers I learned that England still regarded me as 
the same Tetrazzini who had won their hearts at 
Covent Garden in November, 1907. 

On my most recent tour of America, during the 
winter of 1920-21, 1 was greeted in the same affec- 
tionate manner by crowds as great or greater than 
ever. So the steps that I took to counter this little 

Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 281 

act of hostility were, on the whole, effective. De- 
spite the satisfactory outcome of this incident, I 
felt very grieved and sad at the proof only one of 
many which it offered that there were persons in 
the world desirous of accomplishing my downfall 
and who would be secretly happy when they heard 
that it had taken place. 

This was by no means the first time that persons 
attempted to benefit from me by an ingenious 
blackmailing scheme or by adopting some roguish 
practice. In America it became so common for 
persons to try to grossly defraud me that I found 
it necessary always to take two detectives with mse 
when on tour. One of these detectives had a case 
requiring his careful investigation immediately 
after I had engaged his services. I was then stay- 
ing in ^i hotel in New York. Okie day a postal 
messenger brought to my room a small package, 
very carefully secured and registered. I had to 
sign a form to say that I had received this package. 
When I opened it I found that it contained what 
appeared to be two beautiful diamonds. There was 
nothing else in the box, not even a letter to indicate 
the nancte of the sender. Some days later, however, 
I received a note from a person of whom I had 
never heard stating that if I wanted to buy these 
brilliants we could doubtless come to terms. I 
showed the letter to the waiter, who remembered a 
similar package arriving at another hotel at which 
he was once employed. "Excuse me, madame," he 
said, "but I think you ought to ask your detective 
to come and see these. " With that he went to the 

282 My Life of Song 

telephone and in a few minutes the detective was 
in my room. Taking up the brilliants, he stepped to 
the window and examined them very carefully. 

"False," he exclaimed as he returned them to 

me. "Do not buy them; send them back. Then 

- we will see what happens. It is an old game, sig- 

nora, and a very clever one that someone is about 

to try on you." 

I sent the brilliants back to the person from 
whom they came, and then I saw that my detective 
was right in his diagnosis of the situation. By re- 
turn of post there arrived an amazing letter which 
stated that instead of sending back the real dia- 
monds that had been sent to me, I had substituted 
for them stones which were false. The writer de- 
manded $3,000 as the difference between the value 
of the real and the false. It was as the detective 
had suggested, a very clever attempt to rob me. 

When the detective saw the letter he went to find 
the writer, who happened to be a milkman anxious 
to get rich quickly. This milkman, when he found 
that instead of dealing with me he had to deal with 
the police force, immediately changed his tone. 
Though I did not prosecute him, my detective gave 
him a bad fright and threatened that if any similar 
case occurred in New York in the future, he would 
come and arrest him. I think that had the effect 
of frightening him from the false dianftmd busi- 
ness for good and sending him back to his less 
dangerous occupation of selling milk. 

Another incident somewhat similar followed one 

Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 283 

of my visits to Philadelphia. An unknown com- 
poser sent me the manuscript of a piece of music 
which he claimed to have written. The letter which 
accompanied this composition stated that if I liked 
the work I could sing it if I chose; if not, I could 
throw the music away. As a public singer I am 
often receiving complimentary pieces of new music 
from unknown composers, and there was no sound 
reason for my doing other than was suggested in 
the letter. It was a very poor piece of music, and 
I first thought of throwing it away. But as I was 
about to do this I had a sudden feeling that I ought 
to keep both letter and music. Subsequently I felt 
very glad that I did so. 

I heard nothing further about this matter until 
a long time afterward, when one of my many tours 
of the United States brought me back to Philadel- 
phia. Then, as I was about to leave for the opera 
house, the telephone beU of my room rang, and I 
found myself speaking with a Philadelphia lawyer. 
This lawyer coolly demanded to know what I pro- 
posed to do with the piece of music which had been 
sent me over a year ago by a young man of that 
city. If I had not held up this piece of music- 
it was really worthless this young man, said the 
lawyer, would have made a lot of money out of it. 
The attorney stated that his client now needed to 
be reimbursed for what he had lost through my 
dilatoriness, and if I did not pay him the sum? he 
demanded, he would come armed with legal power 

284 My Life of Song 

to collect it at the box-office where I was singing 
that night. 

"All right; come by all means/' was my answer. 
When the lawyer had rung off I sent for one of my 
detectives and explained what had happened. He 
intimated that he would be at the box-office that 
night in readiness for whoever chose to 'appear. 
That night, soon after the house had filled, there 
came to the box-office a rough-looking man who 
said that he had come at the request of Madame 
Tetrazzini. As he spoke my detective put his hand 
on his shoulder and demanded an explanation. 
"Tell me what you have against Madame Tetraz- 
zini," he demanded. 

At this the caller hesitated and mumbled some- 
thing quite incoherent, and then tried to s break 
away. But the detective held him tight. "You 
must state your case before you will be allowed to 
go, " said the detective. Then the man said he had 
a friend who had written a great work and had 
sent it to Madame Tetrazzini for her to see. But 
Madame Tetrazzini, he said, having realized its 
great value, had retained it and had not m&de any 
payment for this inestimable privilege. 

"Come along, then," said the detective, "and we 
will fetch your friend. And I am ready to pay him 
what is rightly his wheijt we get him." 

' ' Oh, no, no, no ! " exclaimed this man. * * I know 
you are a detective. I have been sent here by the 
man who washes plates lit the hotel," Here he 
named a well-known Philadelphia hostelry- "I 



Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 285 

am not the man you think I am and seem to be 
wanting. " 

There is little reason to doubt that this man was 
the composer and the solicitor in one. The detec- 
tive told him that Madame Tetrazzini still had the 
piece of music and the letter which accompanied 
it, and he could have both back if he chose to sign 
a receipt for them. But this caller did not wait. 
The detective had frightened him sufficiently, and 
he left in a great hurry. I still retain that piece 
of music and also the letter, and take both with me 
on every trip which I make to America and on 
every tour which embraces the town of Philadel- 
phia, I took it with me on my farewell tour in 
1920-21, but I have not since heard of the mysteri- 
ous composer-plate-washer, and do not expect that 
he will ever approach me again. But it would save 
me a few unpleasant moments if I were not the 
recipient of such unsolicited gifts from, these un- 
known persons. 

All through my life of song I have been receiv- 
ing by post strange things which I do not want and 
which I would gladly be spared the trouble of open- 
ing. When I was in Rome some time ago I re- 
ceived a long poem specially written to honor my 
name as a singer of renown. But the poem was 
written in such fervent, florid and dramatic lan- 
guage that instead of appealing to my love of poetic 
art it only made me laugh. I have kept it because 
it appeals to my sense of hunaor every time I 
glance at its flamboyant opening stanzas. 

Many letters that I receive are from men and 

286 My Life of Song 

women begging for money. When I was last in 
England I received a letter from an English colonel 
who bitterly complained that he was compelled, 
through straitened circumstances, to live in two 
rooms. Then he proceeded to argue that it was not 
fitting that a person who held such a high rank 
should be compelled to live in such mean and un- 
pretentious style. Would I oblige him by sending 
him some of the large sums I earned with my voice 
to help him take a house which was worthy of 
occupation by a colonel in the British Army? I 
have no time to answer all the begging letters that 
I receive, but this cool request stirred me to write 
to this dignified gentleman, pointing out what he 
might have known if he had given the subject a 
moment's consideration, that unfortunately there 
were friends and acquaintances of mine who were 
in a worse plight than he and who had, therefore, 
a prior claim on my bounty. 

Another remarkable begging letter was handed 
me when I was about to embark on the M auret <mia 
in October, 1920. It was from an Englishman who 
wished to obtain 2,000 wherewith to buy a motor- 
bus which he proposed to drive through the streets 
of London and thereby earn a living for himself. 
I did not send him the 2,000 he sought. 

Though I have paid several visits to Paris and 
sung there to great and enthusiastic audiences, I 
have few happy recollections of the French Press 
and the French Government. Their style of grati- 
tude is very different from that of other nations, 

Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 287 

.This I particularly noted in March, 1919, when I 
responded gladly to an urgent request to sing in 
Paris to raise money to help the unfortunate chil- 
dren of Alsace-Lorraine. It was a very grand 
affair. Besides the Queen of Eoumania, Mrs. Wil- 
son, wife of the then American President, Marshals 
Foch and Joffre, there were present all the big 
people who had assembled in Paris for the Peace 
'Conference. Though I had travelled all the way 
to Paris to oblige the French, I found there was 
manifested no great readiness to oblige me. I inti- 
mated to the organizers that in addition to the or- 
chestral accompaniment I should like to have in 
the building a piano so that I could sing in English 
some popular Allied songs to please both British 
and American soldiers who would be present in 
force. The answer to this request was that there 
was no piano in the theatre, and the authorities, 
therefore, could not honor my request. Not a 
piano in the theatre, indeed! But there were 
pianos in Paris. It but needed the word from the 
person in authority and the building could have 
been choked with pianos in an hour. Tet I had 
spent out of my own pocket $5,000 in order to come 
there to raise money for this deserving French 
national charity. So busy were the French people 
in rearranging their own affairs that I could for- 
give their want of courtesy over the piano, their 
f orgetf ulness in the matter of flowers and thanks, 
but I cannot forgive them for the way they treated 
the journalists representing the newspapers of my 

288 My Life of Song 

own country. For these Italian Pressmen, when 
they applied to come to my performance, were 
rudely informed that they could not be admitted, 
although the French Press had been invited. When 
my compatriots told me how the organizers of my 
concert had treated them I was most indignant. I 
could not refuse to sing, because the object of the 
performance was one of the most worthy for which 
I have ever freely given my services, and because 
I was expressly asked to do so by the Italian Am- 
bassador in Paris. But I determined that my own 
compatriots should not be kept away from my 
concert. So I sent out and bought them tickets 
for the best seats in the house and spent over $2,000 
to obtain them. 

A few days later I gave a reception at the Grand 
Hotel in Paris, to which I invited, besides my 
friends and celebrities, all the English, American 
and Italian newspaper representatives. I omitted 
to send invitations to the French Press, as I wanted 
to teach this country, which is reputed to be so 
polite to strangers, not to mete out such invidious 
treatment to my compatriots. As that reception 
was in progress there entered the Italian Ambas- 
sador in Paris, who brought me a telegram he had 
just received from the Queen-Mother calling me 
back to Borne, I had to leave at once. But there 
was to be another annoyance before I left this coun- 
try. To save me any unnecessary trouble on the 
way home, my Ambassador sent a telegram to the 
French frontier instructing the authorities there 

Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 289 

that I must not be disturbed by the customs. This 
had no effect on the polite French people whom 
I had come all the way from Italy especially to 
help. "When the train reached the frontier, in the 
middle of a cold night, I was awakened, bundled 
out of my sleeping compartment, and made to go 
through the stupid formalities of the passports. 
When I asked the authorities if they had received 
the message from my Ambasador, they admitted 
having received it, but coldly replied that there was 
no reason why I should be treated any differently 
from other persons- For which and other reasons 
I have not a high opinion of French courtesy and 
French gratitude. 

When I arrived in Rome I went to the Foreign 
Office and preferred a personal complaint to our 
Foreign Minister, who immediately sent to Paris 
and protested against the scurvy treatment which 
I had received at the French side of the frontier. 
This protest must have been effectual, for several 
days later the French Ambassador in Rome called 
on me and offered me a gold medal in recognition 
of my services to his nation. But the French news- 
papers afterward announced that they had had a 
medal specially made in my honor, and I had re- 
fused to accept it. It will be a long time before I 
forget the courtesy of the French Government and 
the French Press. 

Another instance of flagrant ingratitude is that 
of an artist who at the time when he was ill made 
a most pathetic appeal to me to help him. I paid 

290 My Life of Song 

all his medical expenses and maintained Mm and 
Ms family during the long period of Ms illness. 
But I have yet to receive his letter of thanks for 
the interest I took in him and his. 

I could quote numerous cases in which persons 
have obtained their ends through enlisting my aid, 
but who have completely forgotten the elementary 
phrase "I thank you." There come times when I 
feel that it is useless trying to help persons who 
are so selfish and ungrateful, but then I am com- 
forted by reflection that it does not matter what 
their attitude is so long as I am conscious that I 
have acted rightly. To give here an account of the 
philanthropic side of my life is farthest from my 
intentions, nor, perhaps, would readers thank me 
if I were to narrate the number of times I have 
sung for charities, the work I have done for hos- 
pitals, for churches ; or if I spoke of the poor folk 
in my native Florence and elsewhere who are sup- 
ported by the earnings of my voice. 

During the war I gladly gave myself to the great 
work of raising money sorely needed by the Italian 
Red Cross. At the time the use of private auto- 
mobiles was prohibited by -the Government, but in 
view of the work that I was doing, travelling, all 
over Italy, singing everywhere to huge crowds, the 
Government gave me a special permit to use my 
own car. That historic night when Venice was 
bombarded from the air, I was in the city of beau- 
tiful waterways singing to a vast audience in one 
of the principal theatres* As I was singing we 

Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 291 

could hear the noise of the raiding airplanes abore 
us. Fortunately, no bombs were dropped in our 
vicinity, and before I left the Venetians were talk- 
ing of me as their guardian angel. 

I vividly remember the night when Trieste was 
taken by Italian troops. I was singing in the City 
of Flowers my home town. At the end of one of 
my arias someone arrived on the platform and 
shouted, "Trieste is free!" Of course, such tre- 
mendous news set my Italian audience aflame. 
They rose in their seats and sang and danced and 
shouted for joy. I think that night was the only 
occasion on which I have ever sung in public that 
the performance has ended before my scheduled 
time. For this I was mainly responsible. Instead 
of proceeding with my next song, I said to the 
audience, "You are all too happy tonight to want 
to hear nue. Let ws all go out into the street and 
shout for joy at the great victory of our troops. " 
This suggestion was met by an outburst of cheer- 
ing. Then we all hurried forth to join the great 
crowds who were already jubilating in the gay 
streets of my native Florence. All the expenses 
of the concerts at which I sang I paid out of my 
own pocket, and the proceeds were handed over 
intact to the Red Cross. 

After that great night at Florence I arranged a 
concert on a grand scale at Trieste, at which I had 
the support of the famous baritone, Titta Kuffo, 
and Mancinelli. Tihe proceeds of this evening 
amounted to 400,000 crowns (nearly $100,000). 

292 My Life of Song 

That night there was a great reception given by the 
admirals of the English, French and Italian war- 
ships which were then in Adriatic waters. One of 
the admirals I will not give him away to his Gov- 
ernmentsaid that he ought to be at Frame that 
night, but, despite his Government, he proposed 
not to leave until after the concert. Nor did he. 
For my war work I was given a beautiful gold 
medal, of which there are only four in Italy. The 
other three are possessed by our beloved Queen- 
Mother, Queen Eleanor (our present Queen), and 
the Duchess of Aosta (Princess Helen of Orleans) . 
I am very proud of this medal and deeply grateful 
that I was able to do something to help my country 
in her hour of dire need. 

One incident which occurred in America in 
April, 1910, ought to be told here. When I was 
in Mexico, earning only $180 a performance, a man 
named Isadore Lerner came to me and off ered me 
$500 a night to sing under his management. He 
was to meet me in Havana on February 25, 1904; 
but he was not there. Later, Mr, Leahy, the im- 
presario from San Francisco, who has always 
treated me most fairly, came along and engaged me 
to sing at the Tivoli in San Francisco for the 
season 1904-5. That season was a great success, 
and one of the persons who soon realized this was 
my lost impresario, Lerner, who suddenly turned 
up with a suit for $24,000 for breach of contract. 
He did not persist in this suit, which I thought 
had fizzled out; but in April, 1910, this man Lerner 

Envy, Ingratitude and Blackmail 293 

unexpectedly reappeared on my horizon when I 
was in New York. This time he had increased his 
claim to the colossal sum of $39,000. Now thor- 
oughly alive to the fact that I must be the possessor 
of a considerable sum of money, he pressed his 
suit with all the legal force that he could command. 
As I was about to leave for England I heard that 
this precious impresario was endeavoring to serve 
on me attachments which should prevent me and 
niy luggage leaving New York. As will be seen 
from the following headlines, clipped at random 
from a few New York newspapers of that time, 
this little plot of the disappearing and reappear- 
ing impresario did not succeed: 








And so on ! I did not find it a very difficult matter 
to outwit this egregious impresario. Hearing from 
my lawyer that the process servers were every- 
where waiting to serve me as I went aboard, I 
assumed a serviceable disguise and boarded the 
Mauretania by the luggage gang-plank. Once 

My Life of Song 

safely aboard, I protected myself from the service 
by surrounding my stateroom with detectives, who 
remained there until the very last moment, when it 
was too late to keep me in the country. 

The New York American published an amusing 
verse, headed "Opera Star's A-Sailing," which 
cleverly described this little incident. It ran : 

"Tetrazzini made a getaway on yesterday's Cunard, 

She beat the process servers by a nose ; 
She made the Mauretania, but she made it under 

And safe on board she chortled at her foes." 

Not only did I get safely away from the clutches 
of that mercenary Lerner man, but I took away 
with me my trunks, my jewels, and all that I 



ONE of my most delightful experiences was 
the occasion of the visit to Rome of the 
bands of the Allied Forces in the spring of 
1918. When I saw the bands of the English 
Guards, tinder Colonel Rogan, as well as the Ameri- 
can, French and other bands, gathering in Rome, 
I thought that here was one opportunity to show 
my gratitude to England and America for the 
many honors and kindnesses I had received in 
those countries, so I gave a reception at the Grand 
Hotel in Rome. 

There came to this reception the ministers rep- 
resenting the Allied nations, as well as many mem- 
bers of the Italian Parliament, The bandsmen 
came too, and, I was assured, enjoyed the afternoon 
without being subjected to any military restrictions 
and without being asked to play. We all spent a 
right jolly time together, singing the popular airs 
of each country not, of course, forgetting Over 
There. I sang a number of songs to the accompani- 
ment of popping champagne corks for we have 
no dry laws yet in Italy. The bill for this festival 
came to 45,000 francs (nominally about $9,000), 
which, when compared with the obvious enjoyment 


296 My Life of Song 

of all the bandsmen who had honored me by their 
presence, was passing cheap. When I last visited 
London, Colonel Rogan called on me at the Savoy 
Hotel and presented me with a photographic me- 
mento of the occasion, on which was written : 

"A souvenir of the visit of the bands of the 
Brigade of Guards to Italy, and of the happy time 
spent by them as the guests of the ' Queen of Songi' 
at the Grand Hotel, Bomc." 

There is one world-famous conductor under 
whose baton I have never yet sung. I have too 
great an admiration of his genius to publish his 
name at this moment without his permission. Per- 
haps one day I will see him again, and ask him 
to allow me to give his name. Let it suffice to 
say that he is not merely famous in his native Italy, 
but in North and South America, in England, and 
in most other countries. Here is the story of my 
tilts with this remarkable genius. Before Gatti- 
Casazza went to New York to take charge of the 
Metropolitan Opera House he was manager of the 
famous La Scala at Milan, at which my brother- 
in-law, Signor Oampanini, was then the conductor. 
The time came for a musical festival at Ferrara, 
the town of the great tenor Massini, who was the 
Caruso of his day. (Massini, by the way, was the 
great hero of Caruso, who hung a picture of his 
illustrious forerunner in the most prominent posi- 
tion in his own home.) Gatti-Casazza heard me 
sing at this gala performance. At this time it had 
been arranged to produce the opera The Magic 

My Lost Friends 

Flute at the world-renowned Milan Opera House, 
and my brother-in-law said to Gatti-Casazza: "If 
you want it to be a success, take Tetrazzini as 
your soprano. 5 ' 

Gatti-Casazza shook his head. "Oh, no," he 
said, "she will not suit us. She is not a soprano 
legere. She is a soprano lyrico. I want a real 

My next encounter with Gatti-Casazza was the 
occasion when I was singing with the Boston 
Opera Company, at four gala performances. 
By that time Gatti-Casazza had changed his 
opinion about myself, for he sent me an urgent 
request to come to New York to sing with Caruso 
at six gala performances there. Nothing was ever 
farther from my thoughts than to cherish for any 
length of time ill-feeling toward any person. I 
wrote to Gatti-Casazza and agreed to his proposal. 
At that time the great maestro to whom I have 
referred (but not by name) was conducting at the 
Metropolitan. After all that had gone before, my 
decision to appear now at the Metropolitan caused 
a considerable stir, both in the theatre and outside. 
Members of the chorus gave me a great welcome. 
"Hurrah! Tetrazzini has come to us at last!" they 
shouted as I appeared for rehearsals. 

Though the reception which the majority of my 
own profession gave me was most generous, I soon 
found that there was one person present who did 
not seem to take kindly to my advent. He was 
other than the great maestro. His mental 

298 My Life of Song 


attitude at that time was conveyed to me by a 
friend in the chorus, who whispered in my ear the 
news that the maestro had expressed himself as 
disliking the task of conducting for artists of the 
"skyrocket, pyrotechnic, or firework brand." 

To appreciate this attitude it should be under- 
stood that during the singing of the long, unac- 
companied cadenzas of the great arias the conduc- 
tor has to stand, statue-like, with raised baton, 
waiting to take up the cue with the orchestra. I 
had always known that some of the superior con- 
ductors considered such a pose to be far beneath 
the dignity of persons so exalted as themselves, 
particularly when conducting for sopranos who oc- 
casionally add notes of their own to the original 
score. When I heard that this great maestro had 
so expressed himself concerning my singing, I went 
to Gatti-Casazza and asked: 

"Who is the conductor this evening!" 

"He is the maestro " replied he, naming the 

conductor who had called me a skyrocket singer. 

"Oh, no," I answered. "I protest against sing- 
ing to the accompaniment of his baton. Give me 
number two conductor," 

Gatti-Oasazza did not demur, for he had regret- 
ted opposing me on a previous occasion, and prob- 
ably now felt that it was useless again to object 

The scene that night at the Metropolitan was so 
wonderful that even the management, accustomed 
as they were to great nights, expressed their amaze- 
ment at the unusual spectacle* To say that the 

My Lost Friends 299 

theatre was crowded would not convey an adequate 
idea of the scene. All the wealthiest people 
in New York were there in force. They filled 
the boxes and the orchestra, and extra seats that 
were placed down the aisles. They overflowed into 
the corridors, where, without being able to see, they 
stood to listen. Special police had to be 
brought in 'to help the attendants in handling the 
mass of people that swarmed into the famous 
theatre. Occupying a box in that great audience 
was one man whose position that night was 
peculiar. He was the chief conductor, but he was 
not conducting. Yet he sat through the perform- 
ance and, to his credit, joined heartily in the public 
applause. He went farther. After the perform- 
ance was over he came behind the scenes, sought 
me out, and congratulated me upon my work and 
upon the size of the audience. "I have never seen 
such a house/' he declared, speaking with much 
enthusiasm. Then, with a note of sadness in his 
voice, he exclaimed: "What a shame it is that I 
did not have the honor of conducting so remark- 
able a performance on this night of nights. " 

"But you did not want to conduct for me," I 
replied. "I understand you don't like my sky- 

For a moment he looked at me nonplussed, and I 
laughingly proceeded : "I know it is inconvenient 
for you to conduct for sopranos who have the habit 
of singing very long cadenzas. . It makes you nerv- 
ous to hold your hands in the air. AM I am the 

300 My Life of Song 

last person to want a maestro to conduct for me 
against his inclination." 

The maestro took my raillery with great good 
humor and begged my pardon. We shook hands 
and parted friends, but he has not so far conducted 
for me. One of the reasons is that we haTe not 
been thrown together by fate, as when I am sing- 
ing in one country he is usually in another. 

Not long ago this great maestro came to Rome 
at the time I was resting at my palace there. He 
called on me and said; "Signora, I am very, very 
angry with you." 

"For what reason, maestro?" 

"Because you gave a concert in Milan recently 
without calling on me to conduct for you." 

"I am so sorry, dear maestro/' I truthfully 
declared. "Believe me, it was not because I would 
not gladly have had you there as my conductor. 
I did not ask you because I was unwilling to haz- 
ard a refusal." 

At this the maestro asked me to promise Mm 
that I would not close my career as a prima donna 
without first singing to his baton, and I gave him 
the promise which I certainly intend to fulfill 

One reason why the illustrious maestro called 
on me at that time was to induce me to consider 
the name of a sculptor prot6g6 for whom he 
wanted the task of designing the great mausoleum 
for the family Tetrazxini which, at a cost of $200,- 
000, is to be built in Milan. It is within this 

My Lost Friends 301 

mausoleum that I wish to be buried with the other 
members of my family. 

I have already stated that I am a member of 
the Roman Catholic Church. It was a source of 
great satisfaction to me to find myself in possession 
of sufficient money, as the result of one of my 
tours, to be able to come to the rescue of a Catholic 
church at Lugano. The church had been reduced 
to such financial straits that it had to be aban- 
doned both by priest and congregation. That 
church, I am glad to reflect, is now thriving and 
doing useful work in the vicinity where it was once 
a derelict. In my beautiful home at Lugano I 
have my own little chapel. It contains an altar on 
which hang the photographs of my own dear 
father, mother and brother, as well as those of 
many other of my closest friends. Day and night, 
whether I am at home or away, a taper is always 
burning at the altar. In this way I keep alive the 
memory of those dear ones who have meant so 
much to me during my wandering but happy life 
of song. 

I have always tried to make friends, and have 
never deserted a friend, although friends have 
sometimes deserted me. When I returned to Lon- 
don at the end of the war, I sought out many of 
my English friends of pre-war days, only to find, 
to my enduring grief, that many of them were no 
more. While my own quarters were being visited 
at all hours by persons who wished to see me in 
regard to my profession, I was frequently absent 

302 My Life of Song 

I wonder if those visitors had an idea where I 
was on those occasions ? I think not ! They prob- 
ably imagined I was " doing" the beautiful West 
End shops or sitting in a box at a matinee. T3ae 
truth was very different. I was busying myself 
seeking out the graves of my departed English 
friends. I think I must have visited all the 
churchyards and cemeteries in and around London 
during those first few days of my post-war return 
to London. When I found the last resting-place 
I laid an armful of white blooms on the grass be- 
neath which they slept just to let them know that 
Tetrazzini had not forgotten them. 

It has always been my custom to arrange for a 
special Mass for the souls of the departed at 
Lugano on November second of every year. 
Wherever I am on that day, I know this Mass is 
being said in the town of my adoption in Italy; 
and wherever I happen to be it may be America, 
or England, or some other country I rise early 
and go to the nearest church, and through the en- 
tire Mass for the souls of the departed. During 
that Mass I mention every one of my departed 
friends by name. In the afternoon of the same 
day I go to the local cemetery Catholic or other- 
wise, it matters not which taking with me masses 
of the choicest flowers I can procure. Then I seek 
out all the forgotten graves, and place on each a 
.bunch of the blossoms I have brought. All the time 
I am doing this I am thinking of the friends I 
loved who have gone before me. After I have 

My Lost Friends 303 

reverently deposited the flowers on the deserted 
graves, I proceed to adjust the flower borders and 
clean the headstones until dusk. This practice 
may seem curious to some, but others who have 
friends and cherish their friendship will, I feel 
sure, readily understand. Perhaps one day a 
friend will show kindly attention to the burial 
place of Tetrazzini. And if I can see what is 
being done, I think I shall feel all the happier 
for this little exhibition of the truest love. 

My fondness for animals, as well as my devo- 
tion to my friends, has often been commented upon 
in the Press. I have gone through many adven- 
tures, and even got into a number of scrapes with 
port authorities, in my desire to keep with me one 
of my particular pets. One strange favorite of 
mine caused considerable trouble on one occasion, 
and it was fortunate that the incident ended with- 
out someone's being seriously injured. It was at 
the conclusion of a South American tour. I had 
been off ered as a pet a more or less tame leopard, 
which I had accepted and was about to take back 
with me to Italy. This leopard was in a cage, 
traveling on the top of a luggage cart which pre- 
ceded my own carriage on the way to the boat. 
But the jolting of this cart opened the door of the 
cage, and the leopard, more surprised than pleased 
to be at liberty, bounded down the street, scatter- 
ing the terrified pedestrians as he sped on. I 
called to my own driver to follow which he did. 
My frightened pet, hearing my carriage clattering 

304 My Life of Song 

after him and the shrieks of the women in the 
street, dived into a tailor's shop. The astonished 
tailor threw one glance at his fearsome new cus- 
tomer, and then, thinking he could obtain safety 
aloft, swarmed quickly up the little ladder which 
he was accustomed to use to reach his top shelves. 
But my leopard did not attempt to follow. He 
was more interested in preserving his own beauti- 
ful skin than in injuring the almost hysterical 
tailor. He found a dark corner underneath the 
counter, into which he entered, trembling and 
snarling. At that moment an armed policeman 
appeared, and from the doorway cautiously sur- 
veyed the interior of the shop. My carriage 
arriving at the same moment, I jumped out just 
in time to stop the policeman from shooting my 
beautiful pet leopard. This was a more difficult 
task than catching the escaped animal, and I had 
to hand over a goodly sum as a bribe before the 
officer of the law would consent to lower his 
aggressive weapon. The task of securing the 
leopard was quite easy. We built up barriers of 
rolls of cloth, and placing the cage near the 
runaway, we were soon able to induce him to re- 
turn to his rightful home. After the animal had 
been removed and the ten-minute sensation had 
died away, all that was left for me to do was to 
pay the tailor's bill for the temporary use of Ms 
shop and rolls of cloth. As I had recovered my 
leopard alive, I cheerfully paid the tatter the very 
stiff charge he made for his hospitality. After 

My Lost Friends 305 

lie had received my check, the tailor naively ex- 
pressed the hope that next time I visited him I 
would bring a whole menagerie. 

I had another exciting adventure when travel- 
ing to Havana. As my train was speeding through 
a forest region we ran into a great fire. Hoping 
to clear this fire zone, the driver, instead of stop- 
ping, put on speed. He was unlucky. The heat 
had so expanded the metals that in one place it 
was impossible for any train to keep the line. 
There came a violent jolting, followed by the rend- 
ing of the woodwork of my carriage; then more 
heaving, and a final crash. It was my first railway 
accident. Feeling that the world had been turned 
upside down, I scrambled to my feet and led my 
company to escape through the window. Then, 
though severely shaken and bruised, we found 
plenty to do, for, though we had providentially 
escaped, many had been killed, including some of 
the negro porters, and others had been seriously 
injured. While we were busy helping the injured 
the brushwood near the line caught fire, and soon 
the train began to blaze. After the wounded had 
been freed and tended, I led my party in a suc- 
cessful effort to salvage our indispensable opera 
equipment. A hose pipe which was carried on the 
engine was used to direct hot water from the boil- 
ers on to the luggage van. Though the hot water 
did not greatly improve some of our equipment, 
it nevertheless saved it from a much worse fate, 
and when we were able to resume our perform- 

306 My Life of Song 

ances we found that our scalded scenery was still 

As we knew that it would be some time before a 
rescue train could arrive, the passengers, includ- 
ing myself and company, trekked to an open space 
near by, to windward of the fire, and encamped for 
the night. There we made ourselves as comfort- 
able as possible, but were very glad when, early 
next morning, a relief train came along and took 
us through to Havana, Though in America inci- 
dents of this nature are taken as a matter of 
course, I regard that railway adventure as one of 
the most unpleasant experiences of my life of 



W HE/BE are the great singers who will take 
the place of Patti, Melba, Jenny Lind, 
Tietjens, and those other prime donne of 
the glorious past? Where am I to look for a suc- 
cessor to Tetrazzini? 

For years I have been hoping and searching for 
even one who will step into my place when in (I 
hope) the distant future I retire. So far I have 
hoped and sought in vain. There are thousands 
of singers and musicians in the world today, as 
always. Some of these have a large following, 
their hundreds of admirers. They sing well and 
they play well. In their own countries they draw 
good audiences, and their performances are ap- 
plauded without stint. 

But they have all stopped short of being truly 
great. They are virtuosos, and not geniuses* They 
have the training without the highest natural 
gifts. Their reputations are national, and not in- 
ternational. Their names are famous in some 
parts of the earth, but in other parts they are 
almost unknown. Yet the names of the passing 
generation of world stars are known in every 
civilized home of the world. 


308 My Life of Song 

Occasionally a new star appears in some corner 
of the globe. I hear the name mentioned, and I 
say to myself, "Has the new prima dorma actually 
arrived ?" I wait and wonder. And then I dis- 
cover that the new star is not of the first magni- 

There is no one who would welcome the appear- 
ance of a new international star more heartily and 
more readily than would I. To me great art is 
life. That I have been able to give pleasure to 
vast audiences in all parts of the world for many 
years through my gift of song is to me an unend- 
i n g joy. Yet I want to see more and more great 
stars appear to lighten this dull age. 

When Patti hailed me as her successor, I said to 
myself, "Though I cannot show you, dear Patti, 
how greatly I value that message of yours, per- 
haps I shall be able one day to do the next best 
thing I shall write similarly to someone who 
appears on my horizon, and so pass on the pleas- 
ure that Patti 's message gave to me." 

I have not yet sent that message, but I am still 
hoping that before I retire I shall meet and hear 
a new Patti, a new Jenny Lind, a new Tetra^zint 

When I was singing in Spain my hopes rose 
high. A young singer came to me and asked me 
to hear her voice. I listened and secretly exulted. 
"Yes, I have found her," I said to myself- "the 
new international prima donna. She is a genius." 

Her voice climbed to the sky without effort 
The timbre and quality, the easy, bird-like trills 

Advice to Young Singers 309 

were such as are only commanded by the great 
ones of the earth. But her notes were not quite 
developed; she could not produce all the volume 
and beauty of tone without more study, more hard 
work, long hours of training, of rigid application, 
of self-controlyes, of self-sacrifice. 

Not suspecting her real thoughts, I told my 
young genius what she must do and continue to do 
if she would be truly great. Her answer left me 
sad and sorrowful. 

' ' What ! ' ' she exclaimed. ' ' You say I must start 
training over again ? Are you aware, madame, 
that I am a great artist ?" 

What could I say in. answer? Here was an 
undoubted genius, one with the possibilities of an 
international prima donna, but so self-opinionated 
and unwilling to be helped by someone qualified 
to assist that she took offence at hearing the truth. 
I bowed and said, "Oh, I beg your pardon for 
my presumption." And she went away. 

She has, however, returned, and is now acting 
upon some advice I proffered her. 

Though the dearth of great talent is partly due 
to the fact that there are some who will not undergo 
the rigorous training which is essential for any 
aspirant to the greatest honors in the realm of 
song, there is perhaps another and stronger rea- 
son. Even supposing there are God-given voices 
undiscovered, and only waiting to be trained, I 
am afraid we have no great maestri capable of 
giving the training. So many teachers are too 

310 My Life of Song 

ready to deceive themselves and their pupils in 
their methods of training. Their mistakes are 
many and flagrant. They beguile mezzo-sopranos 
into the belief that they are coloraturas, and some- 
times indeed are able to add a few notes at the top 
while taking them away from the bottom. 

When the modern maestro does produce a singer, 
the opportunities that are offered her to develop 
are, unfortunately, very few and hopelessly in- 
adequate. Prior to the war there were opera 
houses in the capitals and smaller towns of Europe 
where the budding prima donna could sing and 
develop her art. Today the opera houses of the 
world, and particularly those of Europe, are in a 
bad way. Nor are the future prospects in Eng- 
land or in the other countries of Europe at all 
rosy for the potential star. Ten years will prob- 
ably elapse before the opera houses of the world 
return to their pre-war state and become what 
they were in the old days, nurseries for the new 

Perhaps by that time I shall have met my new 

Another question I have often asked myself 
and been asked by others is: What of the future 
of coloratura music, the music of runs and trilk 
and melody, through which I have become known 
to the world? This music is no longer being writ- 
ten, singers no longer study ityet people crowd 
to hear it. We are told that it is of the past, that 
it is dying or dead, The critics and the people 

Advice to Young Singers 311 

that go to opera talk of the modem music of 
France, Germany and Italy. But I do not believe 
this older style of music will die. No, it cannot 
die. For is it not natural music, the music of the 

And do the admirers of the very modern music 
really know how great is this old Italian music? 
It is not a matter of the frills and trills these 
things are easy to write, and they do not make 
music; they are but the froth on the champagne. 
It takes a great master to write this music, though 
it seems so simple in comparison with the modern 
operatic compositions. The composers of this old 
school Donizetti and Rossini, for instance wrote 
especially for the voice as for an instrument; but 
Richard Strauss certainly did not write for the 
voice. The day will come, however, when there 
will be born another Donizetti* Then coloratura 
music will take a new lease of life. It may be that 
one or two great coloratura singers may first arise 
so as to inspire the new Donizetti, Yet he will 
come, and the world will assuredly welcome his 

Today the young students of singing whose 
voices seem to come in the coloratura class try to 
turn them into some other. Unfortunately, the 
majority of such voices are very small in compass, 
and do not therefore promise a great career. Per- 
haps that is another reason why there are now 
practically no students of this style of singing. 
It is true that the vocal art must be perfect for 
such music. What I mean is that the defects of 

312 My Life of Song 

a coloratura are more readily apparent; they are 
not covered, as in the modern opera, with the sound 
of the orchestra. To one who has mastered high 
soprano technique, other music is not difficult. 
Coloratura practice is a kind of gymnastic exer- 
cise which keeps the voice flexible and in perfect 
working condition. 

Some people will say that it takes years of study 
to become a great coloratura artist. Possibly with 
some, but with others it may not be necessary. A 
voice may be born just right or it may be developed 
just right. In any case, to have a perfect colora- 
tura voice is to possess the choicest gift of the 
gods. Therefore, if it means arduous effort, the 
achievement is always worth while. 

One objection now made to coloratura music is 
that it is not dramatic, that it is artificial, that the 
world now demands in its opera the thing that is 
like life. I cannot deny that such music is not 
dramatic in its character. One might say, per- 
haps, that it has light, but no shadow. Yet the 
melody that reaches the heart can exist in the same 
opera with dramatic music. Indeed, this is the 
case in the early Verdi operas. Perhaps the col- 
oratura music of the future will be differently 
combined and used. I am no prophet indeed, 
can anyone foresee in these matters! But I will 
say that this music will return to popularity as 
surely as springtime and its chorus of singing- 
birds must follow every melancholy winter. 

Many of my correspondents write to ask me to 

Advice to Young Singers 313 

give them some hints as to how to become a fam- 
ous singer. One day I may write a book on this 
subject. In this "My Life of Song y ' I have no 
space to give more than a few hints. I counsel 
every singer to lose herself in her part, as I invari- 
ably do when singing. I am the joyous girl in a 
pretty garden in far-away Italy; I am a daughter 
of Greece, wandering, pensive, in the shade of a 
noble temple; or I am the wild-hearted French 
maiden sorrowing for my ungrateful lover. "What- 
ever role I am singing, I actually become that 
person. Even then one must temper feeling with 
reason. Sometimes, when the dramatic situation 
demands sadness, I forget myself to such an extent 
that sobs choke my throat, tears fill my eyes, and 
my voice breaks. The singer must never let her- 
self go so far. When this happens I have to take 
hold of myself suddenly, "No, Tetrazzini," I 
say ; * ' what are you doing ? ' ' Then my voice <?lears, 
and I am the character again, but the character 
under the control of Tetrazzini. 

In studying a new role I am 1 in the habit of 
practising in front of a mirror in order to get an 
idea of the effect of a facial expression and to see 
that it does not take away from the correct posi- 
tion of the mouth. 

When singing, always smile slightly. This little 
smile at once relaxes the lips, allowing them free 
play for the words which they and the tongue must 
form. It also gives the singer a slight sensation 
of uplift necessary for singing. It is impossible to 

314 My Life of Song 

sing well when mentally depressed or even phy- 
sically indisposed. Unless one has complete con- 
trol over the entire vocal apparatus, and unless 
one can assume a smile one does not feel, the 
voice will lack some of its resonant quality, par- 
ticularly in the upper notes. Be careful not to 
simulate too broad a smile. Too wide a smile often 
accompanies what is called 'Hhe white voice." 
This is a voice production where a head resonance 
alone is employed, without sufficient of the appog- 
gio or enough of the mouth resonance to give the 
tone a vital quality. This " white voice n should 
be thoroughly understood, and is one of the many 
shades of tone a singer can use at times, just as 
the impressionist uses various unusual colors to 
produce certain atmospheric effects. For instance, 
in the mad scene in Lucia, the use of the "white 
voice 77 suggests the babbling of the mad woman, 
as the same voice in the last act of Trwiaka, or in 
the last act of La BoMme suggests utter physical 
exhaustion and the approach of death- An entire 
voice production on this colorless line, however, 
would always lack the brilliancy and the vitality 
which inspires enthusiasm. One of the compensa- 
tions of the " white voice'* singer is the fact that 
she usually possesses a perfect diction. 

The singer's expression must concern itself 
chiefly with the play of emotion around the eyes, 
eyebrows and forehead. The average perron lias 
no idea how much expression can be conveyed by 
the eyebrows and eyelids. A complete emotional 

Advice to Young Singers 315 

scale can be symbolized thereby. A very droop- 
ing eyebrow is expressive of fatigue, either phy- 
sical or mental. This lowered eyebrow is the as- 
pect we see about us most of the time, particu- 
larly on people past their first youth. As it shows 
a lack of interest, it is not a favorite expression of 
actors, and is only employed where the role makes 
it necessary. Increasing anxiety is depicted by 
slanting the eyebrows obliquely in a downward line 
toward the nose. Concentrated attention draws 
the eyebrows together over the bridge of the nose, 
while furtiveness widens the space again without 
elevating the eyebrows. In the eyebrows alone 
you can depict mockery, every stage of anxiety 
or pain, astonishment, ecstacy, terror, suffering, 
fury and admiration, besides all the subtle tones 
between. That is one reason why it is necessary 
to practise before the mirror to see that the cor- 
rect facial expression is present, that the face is 
not contorted by lines of suffering or by lines of 

Another thing the young singer must not for- 
get in making her initial bow before the public is 
the question of dress. When singing on the plat- 
form or stage, dress as well as you can. Whenever 
you face the public, have at least the assurance 
that you are looking your very best; that your 
gowns hang well, fit perfectly, and are of a becom- 
ing color* It is not necessary that they should be 
gorgeous or expensive, but let them always be suit- 
able; and for big cities let them be just as sump- 

316 My Life of Song 

tuous as you can afford. At morning concerts in 
New York, velvets and hand-painted chiffons are 
considered good form, while in the afternoon 
handsome silk or satin frocks of a very light color 
are worn, with hats. If the singer chooses to wear 
a hat, let her be sure that its shape will not inter- 
fere with her voice. A very large hat, for instance, 
with a wide brim that comes down over the face, 
acts as a sort of blanket to the voice, eating up 
sound and detracting from the beauty of tone 
which should go forth into the audience. It is also 
likely to screen the singer's features too much and 
hide her from view of those sitting in the balconies 
and galleries. 

One word on the subject of corsets. There is no 
reason in the world why a singer should not wear 
corsets, and if singers have a tendency to grow 
stout, a corset is usually a necessity, A singer *s 
corset should be well fitted around the hips and 
should be extremely loose over the diaphragm. If 
made in this way it will not interfere in the slight- 
est degree with the breathing. 

Though every singer must take care of her 
health, she need not necessarily wrap herself IB 
cotton-wool and lead a sequestered existence. A)t 
the same time, one cannot retain a position of emi- 
nence in the domain of song and also indulge in 
social dissipations* Society must be cut out of 
the life of the great singer, for the demands made 
by it on time and vitality can only be given at a 
sacrifice to her art. 

Advice to Young Singers 317 

The care of the health is an individual matter; 
what agrees well with one might cause trouble to 
others. I eat the plainest food always, and 
naturally, being Italian, I prefer the foods of my 
native land. But simple French or German cook- 
ery agrees with me quite as well ; and I allow the 
tempting pastry, the rich and over-spiced patty, to 
pass by untouched, consoling myself with fruit and 
fresh vegetables. 

Personally, I never wear a collar, and have hard- 
ened my throat to a considerable extent by always 
wearing slightly cut-out gowns in the house; and 
even when I wear furs I do not have them closely 
drawn around my neck. Fresh air has been my 
most potent remedy at all times when I have been 

The foregoing hints may prove helpful to some 
oJ my readers, but they must not regard them as 
more than hints, for this is not a book on "how to 
sing," but a summary of the life of a singer. 

In saying au> revoir to my readers, I would also 
point out that I have no present intention of bring- 
ing my career to an early close. Far from it. My 
voice today has only just attained complete matur- 
ity, I hope to use it for the enjoyment of my 
fellow-creatures for many years to come. True, 
I have just completed my farewell tour of the 
United States of America ; but that is only because 
America is so far away from my beloved Italy, 
and I can only reach it after an invariably un- 
pleasant sea voyage. I shall still visit England, 

318 My Life of Song 

which I love so well, every year. And I trust m>y 
voice will be heard there and in other capitals of 
Europe for many a year to come; perhaps in 
America once more. 

I do not close this narrative on the sad note 
of farewell, for I am expecting often to meet every 
one of my readers in what, I trust, will be the 
happy future for us all. It may be that our meet- 
ing will be in some grand hall of song in London 
or in Brighton, in Liverpool or in Edinburgh, in 
New York, or in Paris or in Borne. No matter 
where it be, I shall certainly see you all again and 
again* You will hear my voice and clap your hands 
with joy, as you have so often done during those 
many pleasant hours of the years that have gone. 
And I, too, shall hear your voice the stirring 
music of a delighted throngand I, too, shall clap 
my hands and rejoice, as I have so often done dur- 
ing my glorious life of song. 


ALSACE-LORRAINE, concert on behalf 

of children of, 287, 288 
America, audiences of, 137 
American Press and Tetrazzini, 243, 

244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 

272, 273, 275, 293, 294 
Argentina, curious departure from, 


romantic experience in, 121-28 
tour through, 88 et seq. 
Ave Maria, Gounod 's, 94 

"BARNtTM Method, The," 137 
Battistini, Tetrazzini and, 128, 131, 

132, 134 
Begging letters, Tetrazzini and, 285, 


Blackmail, attempt at, in New York, 

281-3; at Philadelphia, 283, 284-5 

Borgatti, as member of Tetrazzini 'a 

company, 98 

Boston, Tetrazzini at, 297 
Brazil, tour in, 112-16 
Buenos Aires, appreciation of, 81 
curious departure from, 110-16 
invitation to, 76 
performances at, 80-4 
voyage to, 77-9 
.Buffalo, Tetrazzini at, 274 
Bull-fighting in Mexico, 166, 16?, 168 

CALIFORNIA, Tetrazzini as ''Gover- 
nor" of, 23 

Calve", Madame, on tenors, 242 
Campanini. Signor, at La Scala, 

Milan, 296 
introduces Tetrazzini to Mir. Hig- 

gins, 175 
marries Eva Tetrazzini, 175 

Oarlton Hotel, meeting of Tetrazzini 

and Patti at, 232-5 
Carpi, Signor, 197 
Caruso, and Massini, 296 
and Press, 27 
as Rudolfo, in London, 180 
in New York, 240, 241, 242 
Tetrazzini sings with, at Petrograd, 

128, 136 
Casazza, Gatti-, Tetrazzini and, 240, 

241, 296, 297, 298 
Cavalleria Rusticana, 96 
Conreid, Heinrich, and Tetrazzini, 

Covent Garden Theatre, Caruso at, 
179, 180 

invitation to, 175 

Melba at, 180 

on gala night, 185 

Patti's visit to Tetrazzini at, 223 

Tetrazzini and, 175 et seq., 223 et 

Wagnerian operas at, 178, 179 
Crispi, Donna Lina, 67, 68 

Daily Graphic and Tetrazzini, 190 
Daily Mail on Tetrazzini 's debut, 190, 

230, 231 

Daily News on Tetrazzini 's debut, 200 
Daily Telegraph on Tetrazzini, 229 
Daniels, Mr., and Tetrazzini, 22 
Das Rfoingold, in London, 179 
Delibes, Lahme by, 47, 48 
Diaz, Canaan, 141 
Diaz, President, Tetrazzini and, 140, 


Die WaOsure, 180 
Diaiorah, 163 

changed to Tfw Pardon of the Vir- 
gin,, 166 




Dippel, Mr., Tetrazzini and, 245, 246, 
Donizetti, as composer for voice, 311 

Lucia di Lammrmoorj 81 

The Daughter of the Regiment, by, 
45, 47 

ENGLAND, audiences of, 136 

failure of Opera in, 178 

popularity of Wagnerian school in, 

Expression, hints on, 314 

Faust, 169 

Florence, appreciation of, 63 

childhood at, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25 
dftmt at, 12, 51-56 

family scene at, 13 

masked ball at, 21, 22 

school life at, 28 et seq. t 42, 43 
Florence Opera House, debut at, 51 
"Florentine Mghtingale," 139 
Foch, Marshal, 287 
Forged tickets in Mexico, 160, 161 
"Four Hundred, " the, 240 
French Government, Tetrazzini and, 

287, 289 
French Press and Totraazmi, 287, 288 

-, Mary, and Tetrazzini, 240 
Gilda, Tetrazzini as, 132-3 
Gounod, Ave Maria, 94 
Grisi, 176 

Guards' band at Borne, 295 
Gye, Mr., and musical critics, 189 

Hammerstein, Oscar, American tour 

of, 264 
death of, 254 

London. Opera House and, 238, 239 
Tetrazzini and, 210, 237 et seq. 
OBteold, Orrilte, 244 
Havana, railway accident on the way 
to, 305 

Health, hints on, 316, 317 
Higgins, Mr., and Tetrazzini, 175, 176, 
180, 181, 182, 186, 188, 204, 217 

II Trovatorc, at Venice, 260-1 
Impresario, a Mexican, 155, 156, 157 

Tetrazzini as, 86 et scq. 
Inez, at Kome, 66 ct seq. 

Tetrazzini 's debut aa, 45, 55 
Isolde, Tetrazzini as, 71 

Italian Red Cross, Tetrazzini and, 
290, 291 

Italy, Queen of, and Tetrazzini, 71-75. 

treatment of singers in, 259 

JBAWHTSY, professional, 129-34. 277, 

Journalists of New York, 189. 206, 

211, 243-246 
Patti and, 188 

Tetwrini and, 152, 153, 188, 189, 
199, 206, 211, 243-6, 250, 251 

Kansas City Star on Tetrazzini, 256 

L' African^ Meyerbeer X at Borne, 66 
fit atq. 

Tetrazzini J s parts in, 45, 00, 66 
La Bohem, 180, 314 
La Gioconfa, first attempt of, 33, 33 
La Scala, Milan, Casazza at, 296 
Lakme, first production of, 47 

Tetrazzini and, 47, 48 
Leahy, 292, 293 

Leeds, Totnmim learns of Patti T s 
death at, 11 

Leopard, adventure with a, 80S, 304 
Lerner, Isadore, Tetrazzini and, 


Les Hu&wnots, 98, 189 
Libra Saoro, by Pineuti, 94 
Linct, Jenny, 176, S07 



QLdnd, Jenny, in The Daughter of the 

Regiment, 45 

Locust, Tetrazzini 's fear of, 101 
London, appreciation of, 62 

call to, 172 et seq. 

Caruso in, 180 

concert in, 280 

debut in Barter of Seville, at, 163 

engagement for, 175, 176 

first performance in, 197 

Press of, and Tetrazzini, 179, 199 

Tetrazzini and cemeteries of, 302 

Tetrazzini 'a reception in, 85, 197, 

Wagnerian Opera in, 178, 179 
London Opera House, Hammerstein 
and, 251, 252 

Tetrazzini 7 s losses in, 251 
Lucca, 176 
Lucia di Lammermoor, 81, 94, 144, 

163, 275, 314 

Lugano, special Mass for departed 
friends of, 302 

Tetrazzini J s Chapel at, 301 
Lusitania, 80 

MADRID, Opera House at, Eva Tetraz- 
zini appointed to, 31 
MaHbran, 176 
Mancinelli, at Trieste, 291 
Manhattan Opera House, Tetrazzini 

at, 238, 239, 242, 257 et seq. 
Miargherita, Queen, and Tetrazzini, 

71-75, 131, 288, 292 
Massini, Caruso and. 296 
Tetrazzini and, 128, 131, 132, 133, 

Mauretwia, voyages in, 80, 114, 286, 

Maximilian, Emperor, Memorial 

Chapel of, 169 
MeGoraack, John, America and, 242, 


Press and, 27, 264 
Tetrazzini and, 242, 264 
Mefistofele, Margherita's song from, 

sung by Tetrazzini aged ten, 33 

Melba, at Covent Garden, 180 

Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 

Caruso at, 239, 240, 242 

Casazza at, 296 

curious incident at, 296-300 

Tetrazzini and, 239 et seq., 257 
MJexico, graft and trickery in, 160, 

Tetrazzini in, 136 et seq. 
Meyerbeer, L'Africana by, 45 

The Prophet by, 98 
Milan, proposed mausoleum at, 300 

Seeress of, 192 

Montevideo, Tetrazzini at, 98 
Morelia, Tetrazzini at, 162-5 
Kusic, Coloratura, future of, 310, 311, 

"NEW Patti, The," 139, 199, 204, 

221, 230, 233 
New York, appreciation of, 62, 257 

blackmail in, 281-3 

first visit to, as prima donna, 237 

" Four Hundred" of, 240 

Italian admirers in, 258 

second visit to, 257 et seq. 
Nilsson, 176 

OPERA, Tetrazzini family and, 48, 49 
Otello, by Verdi, popularity of, 47 
the Tetrazzinis and, 35-40 

PALMISTRY, Tetrazzini and, 192 
Panizza, Signor, at Covent Garden, 

Paris, concert at, 287 

indifferent treatment at, 287, 288 

reception at Grand Hotel, 288 
Patti, as "Queen of Song," 12, 14, 

congratulates Tetrazzini, 232 

death of, 11 

debut of, at Covent Garden, 199 

in Mexico, 138 

in South America, 174 

influence of, on Tetrazzini, 12, 13, 
14 ' 



Patti, journalists and, 188, 189 
letter from, to Tetrazzini, 234 
London and, 137, 219 
Tetrazzini and, 12, 223, 308 

Pena, Saenz, President of Argentina, 
. favorite opera of, 80, 81 
death of, 81 
Tetrazzini and, 81, 82, 102-109 

Pershing, General, 253 
Petrograd, appreciation of, 62 

Tetrazzini at, 128-135 
Philadelphia, 269, 283, 284-6 
Pinsuti, Libro Sacro, H 
Pittsburgh, 65 
"Polonaise, "272 
President Wflson f concert on, 280 
wireless message received on, 278, 

279, 280 

Press agent, 189, 190 
Press, Tetrazzini and, 57, 58. (See 

American and French) 57, 58 
Puebla, xinpleasant experience at, 144, 


OUEEETARO, strange experiences at, 

ZigoUtto, 131434 

Eio de Janeiro, revolution experience 

at, 117, 118 
Bogan. Colonel, and Totrazziui, 295 

in Borne, 296 
Borne, Allied Bands at, 296 

command performance at, 71 

first appearance at, 65-71 

incident with French Ambassador 
at, 289 

receipt of a poem at, 285 

reception at Grand Hotel, 295 
Bosario, Tetrazzini at, 95 
Bossini, as composer for voice, 311 

WWiaw 2WVV, 98 
Houmama, Queen of, at Paris concert, 

Royal Albert Hall, lakmt at, 47 

privileged seat-holders of, 153 

Sunday afternoon concert at, 280 

Buffo, Titta, at Trieste, 291 
Bussia, first visit to, 128-135 

SACRAMENTO, appreciation of, 62 
Salta, Tetrazzini at, 89-92 
Salto Orientale, Tetrazzini at, 99 
Sammarco, American tour of, 264 
as member of Tetrazzini *s company, 


at Covent Garden, 98 
San Francisco, appreciation of, 62, 

209, 252 t wq, 
arrival of Tetrazzini at, 251 
open-air concert at* 252 
season at The Tivoli at, 292, 293 
San Franci&cd Argonaut on Tetraz- 
zini -Hammer stein quarrel. 247- 

Santa Teresa, Tetrazzini at, 118 
Beeress of Milan, the, 192 
Sellka, failure of soloist as, at Borne, 


Tetrazzini as, 45 
Sontag, 176 
Spain, Tetrazzini and young singer in, 

308, 309 
Strauss, Bichard, as composer, 811 

TAW, President, Tetrazzini and, 46, 

47, 266-7, 270, 271, 272, 273, S74 

Talking machine records, 215, 216, 


Tamagno, as Etlgardo, 98 
Telephone concert, 275, B76 
Tetrazzini. Elvera. 13 

and Verdi >s QteUo,$$ 
TetrazamL Eva, IS 
and Verdi 'sdfcllo, 84, 85 
appointed to Boyal Opera House, 

Madrid. 81 

marries Signor Campanini, 175 
Tetrazzini, Luisa, American Press 

and, 245-8, 250-1, 265, 272 
and death of Patti, 11 
and Verdi's OUtto, 38-40 
as diva-impresario, 89 tl 4*$, 158 




as Governor of California-, 23 
as Roman Catholic, 301, 302 
at Bom.e, 65, 72-77, 295 
at San Francisco, 252 et seq. 
at Trieste, 291-3 
at Venice, 259-62 

attempted blackmail in America, 

awarded prize at masked ball, 21 
Casazza and, 241 
childhood of, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26 
congratulated by Patti, 231, 232 
consults Milan seeress, 129 
Co vent Garden contract, 175482. 

curious departure from Buenos 

Aires, 112-117 
debut as Inez, 45 
debut of, 12, 50-58, 71, 72 
earnings of, 3, 73, 76, 110, 175, 181, 

217, 241 

experience with Mexican impresario, 
155, 156 

father's death, 18 

first attempt to sing, 13 

first salary of, 64 

French Government and, 287, 289 

French Press and, 287, 288 

Hammerstein and, 216, 326 et seq. 

home life at Florence, 13-17 

in air-raid at Venice, 290 

in Lucia di Lammermoor, 81, 94. 

144, 163, 275, 314 
influence of Opera on, 48, 49 
invited to Buenos Aires, 76 
Italian Bed Cross and, 290, 291 
John McCoraack and, 242, 264 
journalists and, 152, 188, 189, 243- 

246, 250, 251, 252, 253 
King and Queen of Italy and, 71-75 
Lakme and, 47, 48, 
last tour in XT. S. A., 22, 283, 317 
Lerner and, 292, 293 
letter from Patti to, 234, 235 
London 's call and reception, 172 et 


Tetrazzini, loses sight, 17 
losses in London Opera House, 251 
love of animals, 302 
lunches with Patti, 231-233 
Manhattan Opera House and, 238, 

239, 242, 257 
Mary Garden and, 240 
meets Verdi, 39, 40 
method of practising, 313, 314 

Metropolitan Opera House and, 

239 et seq., 257 

Mexican experiences, 136 et seq. 
Mr. Daniels and, 22 
music publishers and, 212 
musical evenings at home of, 45 
miisical studies of, 30, 31 
nervousness of, in London, 191 
on Covent Garden Theatre, 184, 185 
on dress and food, 315, 316, 317 
on influence of music, 222 
on the President Wilson, 280 
Paris concert and, 287, 288 
parts in L'Afrieana, 36, 41-57, 66 

et seq. 

Patti and, 12, 223, 308 
phenomenal note of, 69, 70 
phonograph records and, 215 r 216, 


photographers and, 212 
"Polonaise" and President Taft, 

President Taft and, 46, 47, 266, 

267, 270, 271, 272, 273, 274 
professional jealousy and, 130-135 
Queen Margherita and, 71-75 
railway accident to, 305 
reception at Grand Hotel, Paris, 288 
reception at Grand Hotel, Borne, 

revolution experience at Bio, 117, 


romance of Amato and, 126 
Bussian experiences of, 128-135 
school life of, 27 et se&, 42, 43 
strange correspondence of, 286 
success of, 100 



Tetrazzini, Tamagno and, 96, 97 
telephone concert of, 275, 276 
The Daughter of the Regiment and, 


tour through Argentina, 88 et seq. 
Uruguay, experiences in, 119 
voice of, 197 et seq. 
voyage to Buenos Aires, 77-79 
Woodrow Wilson and, 274 
young singers and, 307 et seq. 

The Barber of Seville, 130, 163 
banned at Morelia, 163-6 

The Daughter of the Regiment, 45 
Jenny Land and, 45 
Tetrazzini and, 45, 271 

The Magic Flute, 296 

"The New Conquest of Mexico," 139 

The Pardon of the Virgin, 166 

The Prophet, by Meyerbeer, 98 

" Theatre Luisa Tetrazzini, " 95, 96 

Tietjens, 176, 807 

Traviata, 163, 176,314 
first performance of, in London, 196 
first rehearsal for, in London, 184, 

in New York, 857 

Trieste, Tetrazzini at, 291 

Tristan und Isolde, Command pt>r* 
formance of, at Borne, 71, 75 

Tucuman, Tetrazzini at, 91-5 

Tule, Big Tree at, 171, 172 

UNITED STATES, last tour in, 22, 283, 

Uruguay, Tetrazzini in, 119 

VENICE, curious incident at, 259, 262 
Tetrazzini in air-raid at, 290 

Verdi as composer, 312 
Tetrazzini and Otello by, 34-40 
Tetrazzini meets, 39, 40 

Victor Talking Machine Co., 216, 217 

Violetta, Tetrazzini as, 163, 177, 201- 
203, 225, 234, 265 

WAGNER in London. 178, 179 
Tristan und Isolde, 71, 75 
Washington, Tetrazzini at, 46, 270 
William Tell, by Bosainl, 98 
Wilson* Mrs. Woodrow, at Paris Con- 
cert, 274, 287 , 

Wilson. President Woodrow and 
Tetrazzini, 274 

YOUNG singers, advice to, $07 et seq,